Depression: A Mental, Spiritual, AND Physical Condition

alone girlThe tragic death of Robin Williams is a painful reminder of the insidious nature of depression, an often misunderstood condition/disease.

Too often, depression is thought of as a weakness that can be overcome with an attitude adjustment. In reality, however, depression is not something you can just lift yourself out of. It is not a slump, a period of sadness, or a rut. Nor is it to be confused with a “dark night of the soul” or a “desert experience” in spiritual terms.

In reality, depression is a medical condition that has mental, emotion, spiritual, AND physical implications. It is characterized by persistent feelings of joylessness and hopelessness as well as a gnawing feeling that one would be better off dead. It can be misleading to say that it always involves “thoughts of suicide” because many who struggle with depression do not actually contemplate taking their own life but DO wish they were not alive. This sentiment is captured in the lyrics of Stephen Stills’ song Four and Twenty:

“Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed.I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head. I embrace the many colored beast. I grow weary of the torment, can there be no peace? And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.”

Healing, then, should involve prayer, spiritual direction, counseling, and, if prescribed by a doctor, medication to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain. Unlike Scientology, Catholicism recognizes the benefits that anti-depressants can provide when combined with emotional, psychological, and spiritual support.

Depression affects millions of people and should be no more of an embarrassment than being diagnosed with diabetes. Let us pray for Robin Williams, his family, and for all those struggling with depression as well as those who care for them. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please seek professional help. Start by seeing your doctor.

About Joe Paprocki 2748 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

4 Comments on Depression: A Mental, Spiritual, AND Physical Condition

  1. Thanks,Joe

    Many think it is a character defect. For many it may take years for the right find chemical imbalance and treat it with proper combination of drugs.

  2. I appreciate this short, concise and compassionate article. My younger brother suffers from depression, and it hurts me to know that he has it, and it frightens me that he might feel like he would be better off dead. I pray for him and show him and tell him how much I love and appreciate him. Thanks again for your compassion.

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