Robin Williams was not shy about his depression. In fact, there have been times in my own life that I felt encouraged by the raw honesty that Robin had with regards to his mental health problems. Even though he was open and honest, his honesty and understanding of his depression wasn’t enough. When you think about it, he had a billion people who knew about his depression, yet no one could stop him or support him during a time that was so dark he committed suicide.
As a therapist, I have the privilege of knowing a deeper level of depression and the ways to relieve someone of it. I’m sure there are YouTube channels that are dedicated to depression and families. However, most of them lack the deep and rich connection to Jesus Christ and how God set up our world to work and its link to depression recovery.
As we work with our students in all areas of their lives, we find that consistency is the most healing and transformational part of what we do. Being able to explain the path to depression recovery through quoting scripture and deep psychological research is my favorite quality. Our students get to see God set up the world to work in a way that he wants our lives to be; full of joy and happiness, that as we join with him, in His structure, we transform in amazing ways.
Luke 2:52 says: “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” As we take a closer look, we see that Jesus grew in, not only in favor with God, but wisdom (practical understanding of what makes life work in everyday situations) and favor with men (relational skills).
Why would Luke say this? Relational skills? That seems kind of strange, but it has been thought and explained that God created us for relationships. We now have neurological research that shows how this happens in our brain.
God created the human brain to contain a very specific neuron called a mirror neuron. The mirror neuron is the ignition to the brain functioning. In fact, without this neuron firing, our brain and life will not work in the way that God intended it. Just like a car that has everything but the ignition working, it’s essential to have these neurons firing to function.
The only way mirror neurons become activated is by some external person or thing reflecting back to us who we are or what we are feeling. We can try to do this with things like pictures of music bands that we like or sports teams that we enjoy watching. However, the perfect way to ignite a mirror neuron is through relationships. Other people can be very responsive. These relationships provide us with facial expression, tones of voice and shared emotions that can light up more and more mirror neurons, to the degree that we see ourselves reflected back by others (just like looking in a mirror).
How amazing is our God that He designed our brain in a way that we have to create relationships to ignite a fire in our character that allows us to fully join Him in His work of setting the world right?
So, what does this have to do with depression?
The person you are trying to support is failing to bring certain parts of themselves into their relationships. That’s why they are depressed. It could be anger, grief, loss, trauma, envy, greed, lust or any of the nasty parts of life. No one is reflecting back to them that they have these parts. Hence, they are not fully mirrored by others. As we join with the way God set up the world to work, we naturally heal.
This is why Jesus didn’t go to the Garden alone, but with the disciples. In fact, he would isolate himself to pray to God, but would then come back to the disciples for energy. We refuel on people. That’s how we function.
As you are supporting the person you know who is struggling with depression, help them to bring to light a part of them that is left unreflected or mirrored. Not only will they feel like they are fully known to another, but it will ultimately ignite more of their brain to do the full extension of what God created them to do.
Also, make sure you find more than one person to help. One of most damaging parts about not having something mirrored is the mutation that happens. If you haven’t seen your face in the mirror in ten years, do you still know what you look like? Do you assume that you are older or worse-looking? The same thing happens with feelings, memories and thoughts. Unless they are mirrored, they will begin to mutate into something they are not.
What killed Robin Williams was not his depression. He was diagnosed with an early stage progressive disease that would leave him in misery. But, had Robin had the system set up to deal with his depression in the way God designed it, he would have had two or three people that would know him on a level that they would come closer during that time and help bring to light a part of him that was not reflected or mirrored.