I was reading a Time article not long ago on anxiety. In the article, Jamie Ducharme wrote, “The APA (American Psychological Association) surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults about their sources and levels of anxiety, and found that 39 percent reported being more anxious than they were at this time last year. Another 39 percent said they were equally anxious, while only 19 percent said they were less anxious than last year.” The author also reported that, “Approximately 40 million American adults — roughly 18 percent of the population — have an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.”
Other mental disorders are dangerously high, too. The National Institute for Mental Health reports, “Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” Depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans aged 15-44.
To be perfectly honest, I was not one bit surprised to read that. I see the people behind those statistics very often in my work as a pastor. I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to who are dealing with a mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, and more. Even worse than those statistics is the way many people are treating their disorders and symptoms. Instead of pursuing healthy routes of treatment, people often choose to medicate with illegal drugs, legal drugs obtained illegally, drinking, and other self-destructive habits. It is hard for me to watch people’s lives circle the drain.
None of this may be news to you. It is becoming well-known how prevalent mental disorders are in our country and the world at large. The question we are left with is how we handle these problems, whether they are our own or someone we know. First, I hope that professional help will be sought. Many people find great relief from these disorders with the right medication and counselors. Also, we should rally around one another as family, community, and friends. For people living with these disorders, they often feel alone and that feeds the disorder. Third, I hope that we can destigmatize these disorders. I still hear people say that there is no such thing as depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. This way of looking at the situation further silences people and keeps them from getting the help they need.
I could write so much more about this topic. It is one that I am passionate about and know first-hand. I have dealt with depression on and off for sixteen years. It is usually no picnic. It can be hard, but with all the resources I listed above, it becomes much more manageable.
However, for me, my faith is one of my greatest tools in negotiating mental disorders and I have seen faith be a tremendous help to others in their journeys. A couple of years ago, I was going to visit a college student from our church at Radford University. On that cold, gloomy day, depression was grinding away at me. However, I pushed onward with my visit.
When I arrived at the university, I parked in front of the church that is across the road. I read the sign in their yard and this is what it said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7.” Immediately, I felt a sense of peace in my soul. All my problems were not magically gone. However, the load felt lighter and I felt that God was truly walking with me.
These disorders, and so many other health conditions, may be growing in our country. But, thank God, there is help for most of them. Most importantly, we have a God who loves us dearly and wants to help!