October 9, 2012

Clergy Depression

We continue to hear a lot about clergy not taking care of themselves. This self-neglect makes them expensive to insure (sometimes almost prohibitively so)and cuts short their ministry. While most concerns, at least in our conference, center on lack of exercise and excess weight, clergy depression still goes unappreciated and under-reported. Why is this so?

For many people, depression is "just" a mental "thing" or merely feelings of sadness. No, depression is not being able to get out of bed in the morning, or eating too much, sleeping too much or too little, feeling drained all the time, or feeling empty and bored with life much of the time often with no identifiable cause, having too much or too little desire. Depression is a real illness that effects a person's spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and intellectual life.

And pastors are more prone than average to be depressed, in part because they minister to large numbers of other depressed persons. You can know that you are around a person who is depressed, because they just wear you out. If you are surrounded by lots of depressed people (in the jail, in the hospital, in the pastor's study, in the nursing home, in the funeral home), you need to pay attention that you and your spouse don't get worn out beyond recognition.

What can you do? First recognize when you are being drained by interactions with people. Try not to schedule too much in too short a period of time, so you can give yourself time to decompress. Do not grab another bite of cake or an extra cookie, but take a walk instead. Get outside. Do something you enjoy with friends and family. Call or email or text a friend. Renew a friendship or deepen an acquaintance. Make sure you have something to look forward too. Learn something new about the Bible. Start a blog. Contribute to this one. Listen to some good music. Play with the kids or help them with homework. Get inspired. Find your passion. Identify hope in your life.

But if you are depressed and have been feeling down and out-of-sorts for over six months, check with your doctor. Pastors are too valuable to be wasted.

Grace, Kathy

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