I Don’t Want to Talk About It…Depression in the Wake of Covid-19

I Don’t Want to Talk About It…Depression in the Wake of Covid-19

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“In the middle of the journey of our lives, I found myself upon a dark path” ~ Dante
 
I don’t want to talk about it.[1] 
Having served some years in parish ministry, I understand why folks in general and clergy in particular, will go to great lengths to avoid acknowledging repeated bouts of despair or the kind of numbness that doesn’t dissipate with time. Yet what finally brought its painful legacy home was my own battle. Mind you, not that I ever, ever would have admitted I was suffering from depression – be it to friends, colleagues, congregants, members of my family, or even myself.  
 
The revelation itself came when I least expected it, during an annual visit to my primary care physician. Though approaching retirement, his was a quality of care that relied as much on astutely observing a patient overall during the visit. After asking some seemingly perfunctory questions and reviewing my charts once more, my doctor turned and looked at me gently but directly. It was then that he calmly asked, “Jessica, are you depressed?”  
 
Writes author and psychotherapist Terrance Real, “Somewhere between 60 to 80 percent of people with depression never get help. The silence about depression is all the more heartbreaking since its treatment has a high success rate. [With intervention] between 80 to 90 percent of depressed patients can get relief – if they ask for it.”[2]  The conundrum is, given the shame and stigma associated with depression, manifesting itself differently for men as compared to women, it so often goes undetected and undiagnosed.  
 
Yet since the onset of Covid-19, the specter of despair and hopelessness and futility has escalated, particularly for health-care providers, first-responders and clergy. Observes Don Remick, Bridge Conference Minister, ”… The current statistics about clergy leaving ministry: either being asked outright to leave their churches, or leaving on their own due to the strains of ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic, could well mean that 1/4 to 1/2 of conference congregations could be in transition within the next few years.” According to pastor and church consultant Jakob Topper, “Leading anxious congregations amidst a pandemic, a hyper-partisan culture, a civil rights movement, and an upcoming election is destroying the lives of our pastors. Literally.”[3]
 
In each of the historic Conferences that make up our Southern New England Conference of the UCC there is a ministerial aid group that has made funds and resources available for clergy seeking counseling and support.  Our SNEUCC website can direct clergy to those resources.   

Wrote Dante, from his epic work, The Inferno, “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was…”[4]  Concerning depression – never would I have believed finally coming out on the other side.  It was to finally emerge from a dark wood, that at the time, seemed impenetrable.  
 
I leave you, my friends, with this blessing: That come what may, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing “can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [5]  Know, as one who has walked this dark path, that I am praying for you. Trusting that the grace of God will lead you onwards, out of the dark wood and into the light of day.  Amen.

Rev. Jessica McArdle
Read "When Clergy Face Depression we Can All Help," a blog with resources and an invitation to join a discussion, by Deborah Ringen, Transitional Minister of Health and Wellness. 

[1] Blog title from Terrance Real’s book, I Don’t Want to Talk About It…
[2] Terrance Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It, (New York: Scribner, 1997), pg. 23.  With focusing primarily on the silent epidemic of male depression, Real sensitively addresses how gender socialization “asks boys and girls to halve themselves,” and thereby manifest depression differently.  
[4] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
[5] Romans 8:39, NRSV

Author

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Jessica Anne McArdle

The Rev. Dr. Jessica McArdle is an Interim Minister, Writer & Researcher

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