This week we learned of a 30-something lead pastor who took his own life as a result of a battle with depression (1). He leaves behind a heartbroken wife, 3 young boys, and a large congregation that is reeling in the wake of this tragedy. His wife posted her thoughts about her husband in a blog post (2), saying, "I am so sorry you were so scared, I am so sorry you felt so alone, I am so sorry you felt misunderstood,I am so sorry you felt betrayed and deeply hurt by the words and actions of others,I am so sorry you were fighting a dark spiritual war virtually alone, I am so sorry you were unable to fully get the help and support you needed.”
I would imagine that at one time or another we’ve all experienced the feelings identified by this grieving wife. Paul Kuzma, Director of Foursquare’s Center For Spiritual Renewal East in Christiansburg VA (3) works with leaders who are living in the shadow caused by depression. Paul himself has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and identifies with the personal pain leaders experience. Paul suggests the following books as a point of information and self-identification:
Book: Coping with Depression in the Ministry and Other Helping Professions by Archibald Hart
Dr Hart offers a good overview of the stages of depression, along with identifying some of the hazards of ministry that easily cause depression.
Book: A Pastor’s Guide for the Shadow of Depression by Gary Lovejoy
Dr Lovejoy helps pastors identify the markers of depression as well as assertive ways to address the critical issues that may be it’s cause.
More important that the information is the willingness of a leader to be vulnerable and reach out for help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Feel free to email me - firstname.lastname@example.org - or Paul Kuzma - (Request appointment online) and we’ll get you in contact with someone who will journey with you through the “valley of the shadow.” Don’t allow a heart broken loved-one to have to say about any of us that we were “unable to fully get the help and support (we) needed.”
NEXT MONTH IN IMPROVEMENT: Resources to help you church develop a mental health ministry