It happens to the best of us. It can happen when you wouldn’t expect it to. It can happen and you don’t realize it is happening. It can cause us or those we lead to do some uncharacteristic things. What is “it”? It is depression. “It” has different names such as “down in the dumps”, “the blues”, or even “the winter blahs”, just to name a few. When depression hits you or someone you lead, it is important to deal with it properly and thoroughly. I was in a conversation recently with some friends that rightly thought that someone they lead was dealing with depression. While needing to deal with the performance issues, I really appreciated our discussion of how to deal with and care for the person. That got me thinking that this would be a good Leadership 360 topic. While, admittedly, just a start of a discussion on the topic, here are 6 ways for leaders to deal with depression that I’ve discovered over the years.
- #1 – Recognize the signs. It’s important to be able to recognize depression. The warning signs list includes issues or a combination of issues like: a perpetual feeling of helplessness or hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, appetite or dramatic weight changes, change of sleep patterns, loss of energy, unusual anger or irritability, reckless behavior, concentration problems and even unexplained pains and aches. As leaders, we need to try to be honest and aware of our own personal struggles and to be able to see into those we lead as well.
- #2 – Really know those you lead. If you’re not heavily invested into the lives of those you lead, you may not recognize when these warning signs arise. Make sure that you are spending quality time having conversations that get to the heart of their heart.
- #3 – Understand that depression is very complicated and is not solved with a quick conversation. Gary Collins, in Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, lists seven major categories of causes for depression, and six major approaches to treating it. Each one has multiple options within each category. In addition, people use the word “depression” to cover everything from disappointment over losing a baseball game to the terrifying gloom that drives people to suicide. As such, knowing your local resources, such as physician and counseling options, is important. Someone may work out of their depression fairly easily in a short season of time, while others may need your help in getting treatment and more progressive help over a long season of time. Be ready to invest and to help for whatever amount of time is necessary.
- #4 – Do not tackle depression alone. If you’re dealing with depression, personally, or helping someone you lead, you need others and, most importantly, God, to help.
- #5 – Look to God’s Word for guidance. While the Bible doesn’t mention the word depression, it certainly has thoughts and principles to help guide us.
- The role of our emotions – Christians base life on truth, not feelings.Philippians 4:1 commands us to rejoice (whether we feel like it or not!). And James 1:2 asks us to “Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials.” Notice that James doesn’t tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about your situation as a spot where you can have joy.
- The role of faith – Choosing to trust truth rather than your feelings may require a lot of faith. And if that is what we mean by asking if faith can solve depression, then faith may be enough in some cases. Trusting what God says rather than your feelings is certainly a more realistic approach to life!
- The role of God’s advice – Many people talk about “faith” and only mean a vague hope that God will somehow pull them through. That’s too nebulous a concept to be reliable. Many of the same people who claim to have faith keep plunging through life ignoring God’s principles for healthy living. If we spurn the good advice that the Bible contains, we won’t escape the consequences – even if we have faith.
- #6 – Celebrate that there is hope! Isaiah 41:10 tells us to, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” While trite phrases aren’t very helpful, God’s Word is there to be a help and to give us hope because it is live and active and truth! Stay strong – lead strong – there is hope coming!
Again, let me reiterate that depression is a very complicated and dangerous issue. As leaders we need to be aware and be ready to help.
-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL