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Question

 

Gramps,

If the Devil causes depression. how can a child suffer from depression before he or she reached the Age of Accountability? The first episode that I remember was when I was 4. I suspect I began having episodes before I was 4 that I don’t remember.

Anonymous

 

Answer

 

Dear Anonymous,

While I am sure that Satan rejoices when we are depressed–because he is angry and bitter and enjoys the suffering of others–he does not cause depression.  Depression has many causes including, but not limited to: abuse, some medications, conflict, death or loss, genetics, trauma (like earthquakes or tornadoes), personal problems, serious illnesses, substance abuse, postpartum hormonal changes, etc.  Depression should be taken seriously, just as a tumor is taken seriously.

Depression is difficult for those who have not experienced it to understand.  Well-meaning friends and family tell a depressed person to cheer up, or stop thinking about your self and serve. But as you know, those things won’t make major depression go away.  Elder Holland spoke of this: “But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively—though I am a vigorous advocate of square shoulders and positive thinking!”

Elder Holland also counseled those who suffer from major depression to seek help and not be ashamed.  He said,

“If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.”

The best “people with certified training, professional skills” to help in this situation would be therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists.  Finding the right therapist can be a bit like dating in that you need to find the person who is right for you, and that might take meeting a few.

The phrase “one day at a time” can be an important one for people who are depressed.  Sometimes you might need to take “one hour at a time”.  During those times, there are things that can help you get to through that day, or one more hour. These things will not make the depression go away completely, unfortunately there are no magic bullets.  But for temporary relief you might try writing, journaling or drawing.  These are ways to get the emotions out.  Depressive feelings are like mushrooms, they thrive in darkness.  Journaling or some kind of art can give you release.  Mindfullness is a form of meditation that can be very helpful.  Service can help, but it is difficult because when one is depressed, it is hard to feel motivated to serve.  This service doesn’t need to be big things though.  It could be a small thing like a talking a to a friend who is also struggling or sending note or message of encouragement to a friend.

Elder Holland had some advice on things to help you get through.

“Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”

Finally, more comforting words from Elder Holland,

“Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says,  we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”

 

Prayers,

 

Gramps

 

All the quotes come from Elder Holland’s beautiful talk, Like A Broken Vessel

 

His talk Lessons from Liberty Jail is also full of comfort.

For survivors of sexual assault Cheiko Okasaki’s talk is phenomenal.

 

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