Depression: No Respecter of Faith

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Depression: No Respecter of Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:09 pm

It has been suggested by some that when depression kills an afflicted person they would have survived their illness had they been one of faithful or lived a different life style. To stigmatize current or former patients in such manner is a great injustice. Major depression is no respecter of faith, income, profession, social status or character. It causes a major loss of the ability to reason and the personality changes completely. I have personally known two Bahá'ís who died from this terrible illness and have been fighting it personally for 55 years. I am now 60 years old. Yes, it can start in early childhood!

The course of major depressive disorder (Clinical Depression) varies widely, episodes may last weeks or may be a lifelong battle with recurring, nearly unbearable episodes. The life expectancy of the depressed is shorter than those without depression. Depressives have a greater susceptibility to other medical conditions as well as extreme risk of suicide; research has not made it at all clear that medications reduce that risk.

When a person publicly criticizes any person because of an illness it demonstrates a lack of knowledge and compassion. One cannot possibly know how many of the listeners are sufferers and will be negatively affected by the unspoken suggestion that the illness is their own character flaw, thus adding to the burden of low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness that are symptomatic of that illness. Worse, it might affect the attitude of people with loved ones who are thus afflicted and cause a decrease compassion and concern in the caregiver.

Mood disorders are very real illnesses that can have serious and sometimes fatal results. They affect the entire body and not just the mind. Their physical symptoms can be many: fatigue, headaches, insomnia, stomach complaints or muscle and joint pain to name a few. Many people never realize that it is depression they are suffering from.

Mood disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the general population. According to Statistics Canada's 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) on Mental Health, 5.4% of the Canadian population aged 15 years and over reported symptoms that met the criteria for a mood disorder in the previous 12 months, including 4.7% for major depression and 1.5% for bipolar disorder. Around 3.4% of people with major depression die by suicide, and up to 60% of people who die by suicide had depression or another mood disorder.

Whatever causes depression and mood disorders, it absolutely is not a lack of faith and it absolutely is not their flawed character. So, if it must be mentioned at all, let it be done with a respectful, compassionate and prayerful attitude.

(Some recent Baha'i events have given me reason to think some of us also have our head in the sand regarding mental illness ;this is a sort of public service piece.)

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Re: Depression: No Respecter of Faith

Postby brettz9 » Sun Jun 19, 2016 11:39 am

Hi Jennifer,

While suicide is indeed "strongly condemned" in the Baha'i Writings (see for this and other quotes), the attitude toward one who has taken their life (or to those who suffer depression) should, as you suggest, be one of great compassion and understanding.

Maybe it would help instruct any friends who have taken too severe of an outlook, to be aware of such quotes as the following from 'Abdu'l-Baha which gives such a compassionate view, in this case, to the bereaved widow, and also in the attitude toward the man who took his life:

"That honourable man hath been so subjected to the stress and strain of this world that his greatest wish was for deliverance from it. Such is this mortal abode: a storehouse of afflictions and suffering. It is ignorance that binds man to it, for no comfort can be secured by any soul in this world, from monarch down to the most humble commoner. If once this life should offer a man a sweet cup, a hundred bitter ones will follow; such is the condition of this world. The wise man, therefore, doth not attach himself to this mortal life and doth not depend upon it; at some moments, even, he eagerly wisheth for death that he may thereby be freed from these sorrows and afflictions. Thus it is seen that some, under extreme pressure of anguish, have committed suicide.

As to thy husband, rest assured. He will be immersed in the ocean of pardon and forgiveness and will become the recipient of bounty and favour. Strive thine utmost to give his child a Bahá'í training so that when he attaineth maturity he may be merciful, illumined and heavenly.

(Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, sec. 170)

Best wishes,

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Re: Depression: No Respecter of Faith

Postby jenniferatemple » Sun Jun 26, 2016 11:57 pm

Thanks, Brett, it should also be noted, that in the writings, those suffering from mental "defect" are in a category apart and will be treated mercifully should they die by suicide as a result. In any case, back biting is forbidden under any circumstances, mental illness does not make anybody fair game!

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Re: Depression: No Respecter of Faith

Postby Vidur » Thu Oct 27, 2016 2:04 am

I have suffered mental depression more than once in a life of 63 years, most of it as a Bahai. I have seen other Bahais betray at times a sorry attitude toward the sufferer, in a belittling tone...

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