A few days ago, I gave a brief review on Broken Minds by Steve and Robyn Bloem. After fighting through some intense depression and counseling those who also struggle with depression, Steve wrote a basic list on how to build support systems. For those of you who face depression or help those who do, here’s the list (I’ve edited and shortened it slightly).
First, while you are well or during a time of manageable symptoms, discuss treatment options with your family and friends. Among those who can experience a break with reality without warning, it is particularly important to formulate a family plan during times of wellness. Be sure to get pamphlets and information about depression from institutes and doctors who are experienced in the field of mental health.
Second, prepare your family spiritually so they can press the battle when the leader is down (assuming you’re the husband/father). This is one way the spiritual head of the family can take the headship role even when he is sidelined with illness for part of the time. When you are well or have moderate symptoms, pray and read your Bible at every opportunity. When you become seriously depressed again, you might not be able to read or concentrate. Trust that the Holy Spirit will apply the Word you have stored up in your heart.
Third, monitor your own symptoms and listen to the observations of those who know you and care about you. They will identify things in your mood, thinking, and behavior that you miss. [You cannot always trust yourself, but you can trust Christian friends who love you.] Know and be able to recognize the first symptoms of your illness. Recognizing these symptoms is especially important for depression, since it is a neurodegenerative disease.
Fourth, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or psychiatrist. Medications often need fine tuning. A medication can work at first but then start to fail for some reason. You need to discuss this with your doctor in the first hours of difficulty, not at your next scheduled appointment.
Fifth, if you are a parent, spend maximum time with your children when you are well and build strong respect and communication bridges into young lives. Explain your illness to them when they reach an appropriate age. Reach out to your husband or wife when you are well, explaining how you feel and what the symptoms are like. Build your marriage and family while you are well.
Sixth, while you are well, make sure you fill out and sign the appropriate consent releases and name those who should have access to your medical information. Don’t put off doing this because when you’re very ill, you might be too confused or incapable of doing so.
Seventh, do not isolate yourself. The more you can fight social withdrawal, the better your prognosis. Demand of yourself that you get help and good treatment.
Again, I strongly encourage getting this book Broken Minds. As I said before, I believe pastors should read this book as well as any other Christian who either faces depression or shares in the life of someone who does. This book should be on the shelves of many Christians!