The Physician's View

by Dr. Grant Mullen
Sep/Oct 2002

Part 5 of a Series on Emotional Disorders

Depression in the Church

I have often been asked if depression was more or less common in Christians than in the general public. This is a very hard question to answer and to my knowledge there is no research available on this issue. I have however observed some trends in our churches.

It seems to me, though this is merely from personal observation, that there is a higher percentage of depressed people in evangelical churches than in the general population. This is not because Christianity makes you depressed. I think the explanation is that evangelical churches deliberately attract "seekers." Seekers are those who sense that there is something missing in their lives and they are seeking answers to their emptiness. This is the population who are most receptive to the gospel of hope that Christian churches provide. Our churches then fill with seekers who are searching for or who have found Christ. Depressed people are the most persistent seekers in the population. They know something is wrong but they are not sure what it is or where to look for a solution. It is easy to see how our churches could quickly fill with depressed seekers.

The most serious issue that church leaders must grapple with is, what happens to a depressed seeker after salvation? If the depression remains untreated or unhealed, as we will see later, the chemical imbalance will be a severe handicap to a maturing faith. It will be very hard to pray, worship or socialize while depressed. If a new believer with depression is not helped specifically with their depression, it is very likely that they will become discouraged in their walk with God and then give up and return to their previous life-style. The attrition rate for new converts suffering with depression is alarmingly high.

It seems to me that if churches would realize this, they could become rescue centers for both the soul and the emotions. If new believers suffering with depression could be directed into a treatment program using the information in these articles, far more of them would recover and discover an exciting walk with God. I have seen many find salvation through "12 step programs" where a person's emotional and spiritual needs have been dealt with in a supportive group environment. The effectiveness of Christian evangelism would be greatly increased if we took the message of spiritual and emotional hope to those who need it most.

Next issue we will examine "What is depression?"

Dr. Grant Mullen is a mental health physician in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Why do I feel so down when my faith should lift me up? Sep/Oct 2002 Issue