One of the most serious threats facing believers (and non-believers) in our world today is actually not an external physical danger, but rather an internal emotional and psychological disorder. What I’m talking about is the dreaded “D” word: Depression.
The recent stats on depression for people of all ages and walks of life are absolutely staggering. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer with clinical depression. In the United States the number is around 18 million, with twice as many sufferers being women than men. Furthermore, depression is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44. And, sadly, it is the primary reason why someone dies of suicide about every 13 minutes—over 41,000 people a year.
It is especially alarming to note that the dark disease of depression is rising fastest among those under the age of 35. In fact, it has increased 47 percent since 2013 among millennials (ages 18-34). And specifically among adolescents (ages 12-17), it has skyrocketed by 63 percent: 47 percent for boys and 65 percent for girls. As many as one-in-five teens suffers from clinical depression. Several factors play into this grave situation, too many to elaborate on here.
As a direct consequence, the adolescent suicide rate is also alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year 4,600 individuals in this age group kill themselves. Suicide has become “the third leading cause of death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college-age youth.”
Depression doesn’t play favorites and is definitely no respecter of persons. Nobody is immune from its vicious onslaught, not even the most faithful and dedicated Christians. Finding the strength to effectively cope with ongoing depression in one’s life may seem like an insurmountable personal and faith challenge for many followers of Jesus. They often may feel like they’re faithless, useless, unworthy of joy, and complete spiritual failures.
The avenue of compassionate care and meaningful service to others is a largely untapped strategy for depressed persons to engage, so as to facilitate their own healing and growth. My unique approach to Overcoming the Blues is a revolutionary how-to guide for Christ-like caring by those who struggle daily with depression. Among the practical strategies I suggest is what I call “Blue Tasks,” which are practical ideas of hands-on ways to serve others and, thereby, redirect one’s physical, emotional and spiritual energy in a positive, life-giving direction.
My aim is to motivate, mentor, and mobilize sufferers of depression to become compassionate servants to those around them. I provide real hope in three distinct ways: (1) to recognize God’s abiding presence, (2) to reach out to others, and (3) to respect your limitations. It’s about rising above your own pain and emotional suffering to meet a spiritual challenge by making a positive difference in this world.
If you or a loved one struggles with depression, my heart sincerely reaches out to you and so does God’s love. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).
So please don’t give up! And hold tenaciously, tightly and trustingly onto hope. If you’re feeling blue, God still has a plan for your life. Never forget that truth!
Ryan Noel Fraser was raised in Cape Town, South Africa. An Assistant Professor of Counseling at Freed-Hardeman University, he serves as an elder and the preacher for the Bethel Springs Church of Christ in Bethel Springs, TN. Ryan is also a nonfiction, Christian author represented by Hartline Literary Agency, religion columnist for the Jackson Sun (in West Tennessee), and certified as a pastoral counselor. But most importantly, he is a husband and dad to two wonderful teenage kids. Ryan holds a B.A. in Bible and Masters in Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University, a M.Div. from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University). Follow him at @RyanNoelFraser.