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April 21, 2009

Dot Com(unity) Week 4: Depression

We're answering the question: How can I deal with depression and discouragement?

Okay, this is the last week of Dot Com(unity)'s inaugural journey. It's been fun for me, and I hope worthwhile for all of you!

The big question we are addressing this week is: "How can I deal with depression and discouragement?" That's a tough one, obviously. But the study provides an interesting answer right off the bat in the form of a story about pychiatrist Carl Meninger:

Dr. Carl Meninger, a world-renowned psychiatrist, once gave a lecture on mental health and was answering questions from the audience. Someone said, "What would you advise a person to do if they felt a nervous breakdown coming on?" Most people thought he would say, "Go see a psychiatrist immediately," but he didn’t. To their astonishment, Dr. Meninger replied, "Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find somebody in need, and help that person."

That kind of piqued my curiosity, and I'm wondering if it did the same for you? What do you think about that advice? Is that something you could say in your small group? How?

And to help out with getting a conversation started on this difficult topic, here are some icebreakers and other activities that may help:

1. Cheering Someone On (Outreach Option). These are some practical ways to encourage the downhearted in your small group.

2. All Emotional (Icebreaker). Give group members a chance to role play different emotions.

3. One or the Other (Icebreaker). A creative way to find out how group members are feeling.

posted by Sam O'Neal on April 21, 2009 9:19 AM

Related Tags: Depression, Discouragement, Dot Com(unity), Emotional


This advice is key to a persons growth! To speak truth into another s' life-- of course you need to have established that relationship and trust that a real group setting enables. But one of the opportunities I take is to promote a "when you are at wits end, help someone else, and you will get better" mentality; sometimes they take God up on the challenge, and it changes their life. Sometimes they ignore it, and still flounder. It's all about choices, and taking the first step to freedom from whatever is weighing them down.

I think the advice about going and helping someone is wonderful - and I also see it as just part of a larger puzzle in helping someone overcome depression.
Having personal experience with depression myself and knowing many others who also struggle with it - "just going out and helping someone" was not enough to overcome it.
It is true that a characteristic of depression is becoming overly introspective - which certainly is not good - and that thinking about others would help with that. If you were to serve those who are very much less fortunate than you are it would also help with the propensity of someone struggling with depression of thinking that your life is so much worse or more difficult or unhappy than anyone else's.
There is no "pat answer" to helping someone overcome depression - because what got the person to that state is different for everyone. Could it be a biochemical issue? Could it be an issue of making poor life choices? is their depression related to unconfessed sin? a poor self-image? an ungrieved hurt?
Doing something to take the focus off of just themselves is only a part of the solution.

Thank you for your insight, Vicki. I think it has to be true that you are correct--just having people go serve somewhere will not be a cure-all for depression. There needs to be more.

But the practice does have a pretty well-documented rate of being genuinely helpful. Evelyn Underhill is another example of someone who was given that advice and identifies it as a turning point in her life.

Still, I'm curious how someone would bring this up in a small group. Do you meet with the person one-on-one? Do you set up an entire lesson on the subject and just hope that he/she gets the point?

How does one address the issue of a member struggling with depression within the context of a small group? Lots of variables here.
Has this member disclosed to the group that they struggle with depression? or is it just something that is "known" to the group members and not realized yet by the one struggling?
Does this member recognize this struggle or perhaps pattern of depression in their own life and are they wanting to allow God to help?
I don't think there are any "here's what you do every time you are faced with this situation in your small group" sort of answer.
I think it varies for each individual and situation.
What is God calling YOU specifically to do as that group leader in this situation? The Holy Spirit knows the heart of that person far better than anyone in that group and He also knows exactly what that person needs and when they need it. Discernment and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit on the part of the one called to lead that study group is paramount.
Another the leader, are you gifted to help this person and do you have some sort of life experience from which to draw from in order to do that? Believe me when I say I have witnessed many well meaning christians attempt to help in situations where they neither had the job assignment from God nor the life experiences (that would give one understanding and compassion) from which to do it.
Perhaps there are others within that group who would benefit from a time of study on depression or discouragement and a focused time on those things would not only help the one who is really struggling but also others as well?
The bottom line is the one with depression is not an issue that needs to be "fixed" nor should they be looked at as the "problem" group member. That really needs to be guarded against.
Aside from that, I think it really varies from situation to situation and what the dynamics are of your particular small group as to what one should do to come alongside that person and offer help.

We were in the middle of a study when I came across this study. I am planning to begin it next Sunday in our Women's Ministry Group as well as our Tuesday group. How long will the course information be available? Are you going to do another free course?

Hi Judy,

I believe you can still access the "Answering Difficult Questions" study. And yes, we will be running another Dot Com(unity) study in the middle of May.

Keep watching the blog and the newsletter for details.

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