Depression, Burnout & Ministry: Anne Jackson Interview, Part 2

jacksona22This is Part 2 of my interview with author and blogger Anne Jackson.

Check out Part 1 here.

From your own perspective, what is at the root behind the stigma of counseling and therapy in the Church? What would you say to Christians who think that we should not take medications for depression and anxiety?

It has always been difficult for me to say I needed to be in counseling to the extent I was, or to say that I have been on a myriad of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicine because I’ve heard countless times people question my salvation or my authority to work out God’s calling in my life. Most people think that something is wrong with my spiritual walk if I have to use these “crutches.” I think that the people who are judgmental about these things live in a bubble that desperately needs to be popped. That means they have stayed safe and comfortable their whole life…and there is nothing about Christianity or redemption that is safe or comfortable.

What goes through your head when you hear Christians or church leaders tell people that they just need to pray more, or have more faith, or read their Bible more to overcome their depression and anxiety?

Honestly, I want to punch them. It makes me so angry (Yes, I have anger issues too!) ☺ There is a spiritual element to our emotional and mental health and we absolutely should practice those disciplines of our faith. But there is no magic pill to cure all. We are all uniquely designed and will each walk a different road for a different reason.

How have you been helped by going to see a therapist and/or taking medication?

Going to a board certified therapist outside of my church has been great because they are legally bound by their profession to keep what I say confidential. I think a lot of people don’t go to counseling because they’re afraid what they say will come back around to hurt them in the end. Medication for me has been a lifesaver. Sometimes my chemical levels aren’t where they need to be, and the medication helps get them there until I can naturally cope on my own.

What can we do as lay and church leaders to help those who are suffering from depression and anxiety?

Listen more. Talk less. Period.

Do you think pastors and church leaders can be more susceptible to depression and anxiety than other professions? Why or why not?

There is always the issue of spiritual battles so part of me says yes, but in the same way, I think anyone and everyone is a part of those battles – not just pastors or church leaders. I think pastors and church leaders are less likely to talk about these issues, which in turn can cause them to end up being more deeply affected.

Anne, thanks a ton for your graciousness and willingness to not only answer my questions, but answer them so honestly.

51exizsjwkl_sl500_aa240_1If anything we have discussed in this exchanges resonates with you, then don’t hesitate, but head out/or order online Anne’s book, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic. It will be my featured book recommendation for this month (listed at the bottom of this blog).

13 Comments

  1. by Ray on January 30, 2009  3:08 pm Reply

    I worked in a pastoral care department. We linked with outside professionals all the time. Sometimes anti-depressants are the best thing - but it takes a team to figure that out. Any church that tells you need more faith, etc. is the CAUSE of people turning to drugs, alcohol and other coping behaviors. Yep, some churches just plain make you sick and unhealthy. It's never wrong to get outside consultations. Any church that tells you that all your answer are in the church are wrong and toxic. (check out the book "Toxic Faith" too)

  2. by Rhett Smith on January 31, 2009  8:16 pm Reply

    Ray,

    Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate them very much.

    "Any church that tells you need more faith, etc. is the CAUSE of people turning to drugs, alcohol and other coping behaviors. Yep, some churches just plain make you sick and unhealthy."

    Totally agree. Thanks for sharing that. I'm not sure people's negative views towards meds, etc. Most would take medication for other areas of their health without question....

    Rhett

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  5. by Gary on February 15, 2009  9:19 pm Reply

    The main issue among Evangelicals about burnout and depression is our lack of a good theology of progressive growth/sanctification. Few teach about dealing with Christian sinners in a redemptive, healthy way. Few teach on renewing the mind and dealing with tru moral guilt, shame and bondage. So, folks are left to pick up Hinduism's karma or Catholic indulgences.

    I have had in patient units and large outpatient clinics and the issue is gross ignorance of mutual confession, forgiveness, healing, prayer, etc.

  6. by Rhett Smith on February 16, 2009  10:15 am Reply

    Gary,

    I think that we as Evangelicals lack a theology of suffering as well, which I think can cause havoc in areas of depression and burnout.

    There is no sense of being patient, or the idea that one's spiritual life and practice is not instant, which I think can lead to feelings of burnout and depression. It's a consumer mentality that leaves us burned.

    rhett

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