John Steinbeck took a line from William Shakespeare’s Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent” as the title of a novel which deals with what happens when a man tries to get ahead by betraying his own moral values. Many critics were disappointed with the book, which was published in 1961. However, after the Watergate scandal, one critic, Reloy Garcia, changed his mind about the book, saying: “The book [that] I then so impetuously criticized as somewhat thin, now strikes me as a deeply penetrating study of the American condition. I did not realize, at the time, that we had a condition,” and he attributes this change of heart to “our own enriched experience”. This bit of literary history might also be used as an example of another kind of “condition” which is among us and becoming more severe than ever. I am talking about depression. Recently a rather grim statistic caught my attention. We have now come, as a country, to a place where there are more deaths from suicide than from automobile accidents. Suicide is probably a person’s final attempt to resolve the pain of depression. Depression, unfortunately is alive and well among us.
Depression comes in many forms and levels of severity. It has been suggested that the perpetrators of mass killings are people who have lost all hope—which would certainly mean that they were depressed. But as common as life destroying depression has become, it is still far less common than the depressed feelings which frequently stalk our days and nights, trouble our families, encourage alcohol abuse, and wreck our friendships.
The winter in Michigan is a time for depression. Unemployment in Michigan exacerbates depression. Some days the news is depressing. The psychiatric diagnostic manual suggests that depression comes in at least half a dozen forms. It is estimated that nationally depression imposes costs of 34 billion dollars on the workplace. Depressed people have higher absentee rates than others. The children of depressed mothers do poorly in school. Clearly the depressed folk in our midst feel like hope has eluded or abandoned them. We have a “condition” among us that the religious community is called to address just as surely as we address injustice, poverty and peace issues. If hope is our message, then it is important to help the sufferers of depression find their way out of the darkness that overwhelms them.
Fresh Aire Counselors can be a supportive aid to churches and pastors who are concerned about this silent epidemic. When pastors refer members of their flocks to Fresh Aire, they can be assured that depression will be professionally treated by clinicians who are committed to keeping hope alive. Fresh Aire counselors are available and eager to join forces with the leadership of faith communities to bring light and life to those whose depressed moods interfere with their attempt to find meaning in their lives.
Carl’s Cogent Comments are written by the Rev. Dr. Carl R. Gillett