What if Mom is depressed?

Sad GirlThis is the seventh post in our Winter 2013 blog series Understanding Depression in Kids and Teens…A Primer for Pastors, Church Staff and Christian Parents. Today, we’ll look at another challenge for the church…What happens to the kids when a parent is struggling with depression?

Consider for a moment the impact upon kids when a parent is depressed…

According to an Institute of Medicine report, 15 million children in the U.S. are living with a depressed parent at any given point in time.

Having a depressed parent is a significant risk factor for depression in kids. Kids are three times more likely to develop depression when they have a depressed parent. That observation seems intuitive, but research suggests that genetics only contributes 30-40% of the risk of depression. Other factors clearly come into play…the availability of the child’s other parent, the temperament of the child, the interplay between environmental influences and genetic expression, birth weight (lower weight conveys greater risk), age of menarche (early puberty associated with greater risk), the nature of parent-child interactions, family systems issues and exposure to adverse life events. Risk factors also work both ways…the experience of having a child with special needs may increase risk of depression in parents.

ID-10013676Children of parents with depression (especially boys) are also at greater risk of developing other internalizing disorders (anxiety), externalizing disorders (ADHD, disruptive behavior disorders), cognitive delays, medical problems, lower than expected academic performance and social delays.

Another interesting aspect of our discussion about depression involves the research suggesting that church attendance results in a significant decrease in depression symptoms among children and youth, and in turn, church attendance among adults appears to significantly reduce their risk of depression as well. The research findings examining the relationship between faith, spiritual practice and depression are very complex and probably merit several posts upon completion of this series. But for the sake of this discussion, it appears that in examining depression as a specific disability, regular involvement of either the child or the parent with depression at church not only produces spiritual benefits, but actually helps reduce the risk for the condition itself.

Therefore, an argument can be made that it’s very important to get the entire family to church if any member of that family is affected by depression. So, what can the local church or individuals from the local church do to help mom (or dad) and the entire family?

Be proactive about inviting friends and neighbors to church (with their families) who are struggling from depression and the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that frequently accompany the condition. Given the numbers of persons being treated for depression…over 20% of  women in the U.S. regularly take prescription medication used to treat depression, nearly all of us are likely to know several friends or colleagues being treated for depression.

Establish inclusive weekend ministry environments where the children of parents with depression (at greater risk themselves for “hidden disabilities”) can experience the love of Christ.

Be on the lookout for families who are irregular attenders, or families who have been regulars but are absent for weeks at a time. Follow up with them. Just be with them. Offer to serve them. Avoid the mistake that Job’s friends made in assuming that his condition was related to punishment for sin or some lack of faith.

Support the involvement of organizations and ministries that offer care and support to families impacted by depression. Mental Health Grace Alliance is an outstanding organization now in eight states offering “Grace Groups” to provide ongoing Christ- centered support and practical tools to help navigate life with any mental illness, including depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has an ongoing outreach to faith communities. Research indicates that many persons with chronic depression may have been experienced negative interactions with church leaders when seeking help for their condition. The church may need to go above and beyond to restore relationships in light of past hurts.

It would appear to me that God would use afflictions such as depression to help those He loves to draw closer to Him. The church is obligated to be obedient by doing everything possible to help those suffering from depression by pointing them to the path and by keeping the path as smooth as possible.

Photos courtesy of  freedigitalphotos.net

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Key Ministry’s mission is to help churches reach families affected by disability by providing FREE resources to pastors, volunteers, and individuals who wish to create an inclusive ministry environment. We have designed our Key Catalog to create fun opportunities for our ministry supporters to join in our mission through supporting a variety of gift options. Click here to check it out! For a sixty second summary of what Key Ministry does, watch the video below…

 

 

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
This entry was posted in Depression, Families, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Mental Health, Resources, Strategies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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