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By On May 2nd, 2008

Depression and Faith

Some of the theorist Carl Jung’s statements have spurred a few academic events within the last couple of months in Boston about faith and its place in emotional wellness. At one such event, an MIT conference, psychoanalyst Kathryn Madden relayed how that Jung believed that many psychological issues of adults during treatment were essentially problems of meaning. To quote Jung, ”Among all my patients in the second half of life — that is to say, over 35 — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook in life.” These ideas resonated at other area conferences as well. Rev. Suzanne Guthrie, Cornell University Episcopal Chaplain, told of the connection between her once depressed state and a desire for faith exploration to an audience at Weston Jesuit School of Theology. Rev. William Rich, Trinity’s associate for adult Christian formation and teacher at New York’s Blanton-Peale Institute, remarked, ”Sometimes, people get depressed when they do not have any kind of grounding, centering place in their lives; If they don’t have some kind of spiritual base — belief in God or transcendent power — then they have very little place to go.” The following is an excerpt of an article from The Boston Globe that discusses these ideas:

That doesn’t mean that atheists are doomed to depression, but it does mean that they and the devout must double-check their psychic insurance, Rich says. ”Everyone has a center that grounds them. Is your family your grounding place? OK, what happens if there’s trouble in the family? Is your work your grounding place? OK, what happens if there’s stress [there]?”

Religious faith is a place for believers to find that grounding, but it is no guarantee against mental illness. ”We’re all susceptible to depression,” he says.

Madden, the dean and chief executive officer of Blanton-Peale, cited one study in her MIT talk asserting that religious faith can speed recovery from mild or moderate bouts of depression. But she said that spiritual exploration can be full of harrowing uncertainty and suggested that depression might be, for the depressed, a step toward a better, more spiritual life.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the Boston Globe

On a side note, it is important to mention that individuals with strong faith can experience clinical depression. An understanding of this alleviates the guilt for people of faith experiencing severe depression, freeing them from the fear of breaking societal norms, which could result in an individual seeking out the help that they need. The general idea I pull from the afore mentioned article is that complete treatment addresses the whole person, spirit, mind and body.

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