Warning: Long post ahead

Depression has rampantly taken humanity by storm over the last two decades. It is acknowledged by World Health Organization (WHO) that “depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.”

Our nation may have been branded as one of the happiest countries in the world, yet we are not spared from this sad reality. We may have prided ourselves with flashing smiles amidst calamities and typhoons, yet more than 3 million people in the Philippines are living with depression and an almost equal number of individuals are suffering from anxiety according to Department of Health (DOH).

According to WHO, depression is “a common mental disorder that is usually associated with a depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.” They have concluded that depression is a leading factor in suicides.

If you know someone who needs help in this struggle, we hope that these tips will help you provide emotional support to this person.

Just keep in mind that just like with any other counseling session, these things must be done with full consent from the other person.

Ultimately, we must trust that it is the Holy Spirit who brings change and healing in a person’s life. Hence, there’s no need for us to force these things on them or to require them to go through all these steps.

Please remember to encourage your friend to seek professional help for psychiatric assessment after you’ve done psychological first aid. A combination of prescriptive medicine (if needed) and a psycho-spiritual approach will help in the holistic healing of depression.

SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

PSALM 32:3

  1. Anxiety attack – excessive worry about the present and/or future event accompanied by mental anguish and physical impulsiveness
  2. Withdrawal or isolation – separating of oneself from crowds and wanting to be alone to think and talk to oneself most of the time
  3. Suicidal thoughts – thinking of ending emotional pain through physical death
  4. Low self-esteem – looking down on oneself and developing a self-image or concept of being a failure in life
  5. Being critical of others – the act of blaming others for the fate one has experienced, at times resorting to ranting and bashing on social media
  6. Episodes of anger, grief, and sadness – uncontrolled and roller coaster episodes of anger, grief, and sadness
  7. Burst of negative reactions to situations – uncontrolled bursts of emotional reaction related to lingering hurt
  8. Lack of sleep and appetite – physical needs are affected due to excessive mental anguish and damaged emotions
  9. Constant irritation and uneasiness – high sensitivity to any comments, even of appreciation, which may be inferred as insincerity from others
  10. Disorientation and lack of focus – no awareness of time, the subject discussed, and continuity of communication among others
PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID

4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

1 KINGS 19:4-8

  1. Feed the person good food. The person will need nutrients to sustain the body and for the brain to function well.
  2. Provide an atmosphere of rest. Physical and mental rest is needed for recuperation.
  3. Give the person plenty of water to drink. Hydration is important for the body to recover from the emotional stress of depressing experiences.
  4. Provide a happy atmosphere. Light moments are needed to ease out the tension caused by emotional and mental anguish.
  5. Allow the person to talk freely with his or her family for support. Ventilating the tension without fear of judgment is helpful to unleash any emotional pain that lingers in the person’s mind.
  6. Encourage them to walk or move around. Physical movement allows the blood to circulate and eases out physical tension.
  7. Expose the person to cool, fresh air. A breath of fresh air is needed to refresh the soul.
  8. Provide good music. Upbeat or happy music serves as food for the soul.
  9. Encourage the person to participate in activities that make them happy. Developing this habit energizes the person and helps in recovery.
  10. Remind the person to spend time reflecting on the purpose of life. Faith in God is valuable in redefining and rediscovering one’s purpose and destiny in life.
COUNSELING

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

2 CORINTHIANS 4:16-18

  1. Try to assess the physical and mental state of the person.
  2. Listen to the person’s story without any judgment.
  3. Check if there is any lingering state or condition and address it immediately.
    • Shame – lowly state of self-esteem caused by an embarrassing or shameful experience
    • Guilt – sense of regret due to past mistakes
    • Fear – intense worry or anxiety that may lead to the inability to take action
    • Bitterness – intense degree of anger or rage against a particular person or situation
    • Unforgiveness – inability to release forgiveness and move forward
    • Dependence – addiction to substances, harmful habits, or sexual activity
  4. Ask about the condition of the person’s relationships to know if there are tensions or concerns that need attention.
    • Spouse, if married
    • Parents
    • Siblings
    • Children
    • Close Friends
    • Classmates
    • Neighbors
    • Church Community
  5. Encourage the person to have someone to whom he or she will be accountable.
  6. Talk to the family and encourage them to show moral and spiritual support.
  7. Remind the person to build an open and honest relationship with God.
  8. Help the person renew their visions and dreams.
  9. Ask the person to rewrite personal “baby step” goals to recovery.
  10. Remind them to deliberately choose to be happy and find joy in life.
  11. Help the person strengthen his or her emotional quotient (self-awareness and relational awareness).
  12. Help the person build up his or her adversity quotient (resiliency and perseverance).
  13. Remind the person to deepen his or her spiritual quotient (spirituality and faith).
  14. Encourage the person to develop new habits that bring excitement to life.
  15. Recommend the person to attend church and regularly meet with a mentor or coach.
  16. Advise the person to have regular checkups with a doctor.
  17. Remind the person to undergo periodic psychotherapy to aid in the inner healing of emotions.
  18. Encourage the person to meet new friends and establish new relationships.
  19. Advise the person to have a daily exercise routine.
  20. Remind the person to take time to enjoy life and find hobbies he or she likes.

“. . . to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

ISAIAH 61:3 (NKJV)

At the end of the day, the greatest help that we can offer is the truth that the Word of God gives life. Jesus did not only save us from our sins—He also healed us from all our sorrows and despair. If you know someone who is dealing with mental health concerns, may you be a living vessel of God’s love to them and a tangible reminder that they are not alone.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6and my God. . . .

PSALM 42:5,6