So who’s looking after the ones who look after sufferers of depression?

It can be a confusing nightmare caring for a loved one suffering depression. I mentioned in a previous post, what might have been if only my wife had picked up on the warning signs early, but the fact that she didn’t is unsurprisingly common. This week I attended the Partners in Depression training for facilitators who will run six week support groups for carers of depression sufferers and I learned a lot about helping carers and their experiences.

The research conducted indicated five common themes for carers, that these new support groups are seeking to address;

1. Carers felt socially isolated. They felt that support from other family and friends was lacking and in the wider community due to stigma. This was made worse by the fact that they had turned down social invitations because they were in that caring role and these eventually dried up.

they didn’t come near me because they didn’t know what to say…..” “She didn’t want to go out, so we didn’t go out. We’d knock back invitations… then they stopped coming”

2. Carers felt a lack of engagement with healthcare providers. They were often excluded from the treatment and management of the illness, and due to confidentiality found it frustrating trying to get information and understanding as to how best to support their loved one.

we didn’t know, we weren’t told… it’s almost as if we are irrelevant and a nuisance…”

3. Carers stressed the importance of support groups or agencies. Organisations such as the one I work for have been able to let them know they’re not alone and assist with sharing information and offering useful strategies and even respite for those who qualify.

I needed the help as a carer, not anything to do with my husband…. it was just that I needed somewhere to go for support for me.”

4. The illness had a direct impact on the carers. They were often unprepared for the relentless nature of the caring role and rated high on anxiety scores, and ended up at higher risk of depression themselves.

You can only keep propping the person up for so long… and then you start feeling down.”

5. Carers intimate relationships had declined. There were intense feelings of sadness and grief over losing the person that was, to depression. This added further to the sense of isolation.

This is not the person I married four years ago…. he is just a shadow of who he was, and that is sad.”

It seems that carers are the forgotten ones who are shouldering a heavy load all alone. The keys to alleviating the carers stress revolved around education and self care.

If you’re a sufferer, do those caring for you have enough support for themselves in place and have a strategy for self-care? Do they have an understanding of what you’re experiencing and how best to care for you? How are they managing the challenge?

Why church is irrelevant, and what to do about it

Yesterday and the day before I attended training by Partners in Depression, a new initiative which is setting up support groups in every state of our country to educate and equip carers of depression sufferers. The course was absolutely tremendous and I’ll tell you more in the days to come.

Today I wanted to tell you that I subscribe to communications guru Tim Schraeder’s updates and I just can’t say it any better!

“I’m sorry to say it so harshly but it’s true… no one cares about your church. Look at recent polls, church attendance, or even watch the news and it’s fairly obvious… people don’t care about the church or what we have to say anymore. Here’s what he had to say recently:

We’ve lost credibility for some legitimate reasons. And don’t chalk me up to being a church basher, I passionately care about the church, I’m just saying what’s true and what some of us might not want to admit.

The Church has moved from the center of our Western culture and while some fight to keep it in the public square others of us are realizing the greatest way we can impact culture is by being on the periphery.

Christianity at its core has always been about counter-cultural, so why in the world do we try to be perceived as being relevant by looking just like the culture around us?

We’ve cheapened the Gospel by trying to be accepted at a great cost. The emerging generation can see right through the charade. We’ve created a machine out of what was always meant to be a movement.

We’ve organized something that was meant to be organic. We’ve franchised something that was meant to be localized. We’ve put CEOs in the seats of what was meant to be a spiritual office and treated salvation like a commodity. We made an idol out of our methods.

And to try and fix everything we’ve thought marketing it to look like a cheap version of everything else in culture was a good idea. Here’s two truths: people don’t like the church and people don’t trust advertising. Why use a mechanism people don’t trust to promote something they don’t care about?

I’m not trying to paint a picture of gloom and doom, I am just saying it how it is. I have great hope for the Church and believe that it does matter and believe the church has a great future ahead of it… we’ve just got to make some adjustments.

I think we have a great new opportunity to reintroduce Jesus, the Gospel and the Church to a world and culture that has been weary of what they’ve seen and heard. The next generation is tired of gimmicks they want something real and authentic. They want to be known. They want community. They want a sense of belonging. They want to be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. They want to be significant.

They want to be a part of the Church they read about in Acts but have only seen poor reflections of in today’s world. More than anything they want to give themselves to cause that is greater than they are.

Why do you think movements like TOMS Shoes, To Write Love on Her Arms, LIVESTRONG, charity: water, the one campaign or any of the big social movements that are out there today exist and have so much popularity? They are all doing great work and doing tremendous good, yes. But they are telling a compelling story. They are giving people the opportunity to make a difference. They give people the chance to do something that matters. They are sadly, doing the work the church has been neglecting.

When you really care about what people care about things happen. When churches rally around the needs of their communities and are actually outward focused, truly living for something outside of themselves, that’s when change happens and that is when the church matters in culture.

To truly care about the things that matter to people is to truly live out the Gospel. God is all about people. And what matters to people matters to God. We’ve been too focused on ourselves, our numbers, our growth, our success, and at the expense of a generation that’s looking for a cause to believe in and give themselves to.

I can’t think of a better cause to give my life to than the cause of the local church and I think while we live in a culture that doesn’t care about church we have an amazing opportunity to redefine what church means and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

When we sing or pray the words break my heart for what breaks Yours, we are really asking God to allow us the opportunity to see the world through His eyes. We’ll never earn the right to be heard in culture by screaming on street corners or by having a slick ad campaign. We earn the right to be heard by caring about the things that people care about and ultimately the things the move the heart of God.

Stop trying to promote and market your church. It hasn’t been working and it won’t. Stop trying to make people care about something they’ve already decided isn’t worth their time or attention. Start listening. Start looking around you. Listen to the cries of people in your community and start responding with the love of Christ. See through His eyes. Earn the right to be heard. Be Jesus hands and feet. Do good. Care about what people care about. Be Jesus and the Church to your community.

The Church isn’t an organization or a building, it’s people. When you truly care about what people care about and prove it, people will care about you and what you have to say.”

Thanks for saying it so well Tim!

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Christians of the future will be mystics or will not exist at all

I just read a fantastic article by Carl McColman called The Hidden Tradition of Christian Mysticism
where he says;

Karl Rahner, one of the most renowned Christian theologians of the twentieth century, once famously remarked that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” For people whose experience of Christianity is, often, little more than a religion invested in obedience and in patriarchal morality, this seems to be a bold statement. After all, mysticism implies not legalistic religion, but living spirituality — heart-felt experience of the Divine, centered on a miraculous and joyful appreciation of the Spirit’s ability to heal and transform lives. Can Christianity and mysticism really co-exist?

It fascinates me that a consistent theme among burned out pastors and christians, is that they push back to Christianity’s ancient roots and themes. Even while I was burning out, I knew I was craving something deeper, more authentic and less structured and pedantic than the ABC’s of prayer and reading three chapters of the bible.

I started reading Henri Nouwen and was googling the practices of the Benedictines and chewing over the ideas of the desert fathers. I had begun to mediate and look for God within. For twenty years of my christian life, I thought that God was “out there”, but the contemplatives believed he dwelt inside of us, and that to commune with Him, we had to look within.

It all sounds a little “out there” to someone with a traditional western contemporary version of Christianity, but a quick flick through church history shows it has “always existed on the margins of the church” as McColman puts it. I mean, when you think about it, Christianity is more an eastern faith than a western one, and once the lens of western modernity is lifted, it does allow you “see” the possibilities much like seeing the 3D magic eye pictures.

He goes on to say

So mysticism is, in a very real way, Christianity’s best-kept secret. And even though some Christians of the third millennium remain suspicious of mysticism, many other Christians have begun to embrace the transforming power of such core spiritual practices as meditation, lectio divina (“sacred reading,” a meditative approach to the Bible and other wisdom texts), and contemplative prayer — the powerful form of prayer in which meditative silence is offered directly to God for the purpose of seeking and fostering deeper intimacy and communion with the Divine.

In all honesty, I think we’re all craving a deeper experience of the divine but the journey of discovery has been hijacked by an institutional, modern, western, attractional, business model of doing church, that hands us Christianity in a neat bubble-wrapped glossy package with the words on the back saying “This is guaranteed to work if you follow the following three steps to the successful Christian life”. Maybe the life of the contemplative is just what we need.

Hannah Stones inspiring story of triumph over depression and self harm.

I uploaded this video a few weeks ago of a young girl in her early twenties sharing her struggle with depression and self-harm in her final year of school. It is an amazing story of triumph and pain. For some reason, I feel really sad when I watch this. Logically I think I should feel inspired and happy (who doesn’t like stories with a good ending?). I’m not sure why I feel sad. Maybe it’s because I can empathize too closely. Somehow I just feel the pain.

I uploaded the clip so  I can refer others to it, so hopefully it can help others get help via early intervention and treatment if required. I think it’s become somewhat of a mission for me to help destigmatize mental illness so it’s not so difficult for sufferers to disclose and get help when they need it. Hope you enjoy it, she’s a beautiful girl.