Prayer and scripture seen as depression antidote

Australia is fast becoming the unhappy country, with a report finding that two thirds of people are at risk of severe depression, but a Sydney psychologist says scripture and the sacraments can provide effective inoculation.

"Depression is the number one top public health problem and its increase is shocking," Dr John Poon told the Catholic Weekly.

A quarter of the population may be mildly depressed at any one time, he said, enough to affect sufferers' relationships, behaviour, health, thinking and ability to work.

But there is an antidote to depression in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, and in scripture, especially the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, he told the paper.

Dr Poon was responding to a report by the St John of God Health Service and Newspoll, which says that 75% of adults describe themselves as self-perfectionists.

Self-perfectionism is a common symptom of low self-esteem which is a high risk factor for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.

Dr Gary Galambos, of St John of God Health Services, said that while it is good to be able to set goals and achieve them, being intensely goal-driven and self-critical can interfere with mental health.

Dr Poon said that people can be overwhelmed by feelings of having to keep up, and put themselves under unnecessary stress in order to achieve material wealth and prestige, but the Gospel exhorts us not to worry about such things and to rely on our true worth as children of God.

He says chronic depression is best treated with a combination of medication and cognitive therapy, but many Catholics find it helpful to return to practising their faith too.

"Prayer gives us a sense of connectedness and belonging," he says.

Prayer, scripture seen as depression antidote (Catholic Weekly 10/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St John of God Health Services

Low self esteem linked to high hopes (Australian Associated Press/ninemsn 20/6/05)

7 Jul 2005