Regular readers of this blog might remember a post I did a few months back that highlighted the scale of poverty that is blighting the South Wales Valleys right now. The Valleys is a massively deprived area, which perhaps goes some way to explaining the intensely disturbing national headlines yesterday: VALLEYS TOP ANTI-DEPRESSANT TABLE.
A recent report into the prescription of anti-depressants reveals that out of the top ten regions of both England and Wales, the top 7 are all in the Welsh Valleys:
ANTI-DEPRESSANT TOP 10
Torfaen – 104
Rhondda Cynon Taf – 97
Blaenau Gwent – 97
Merthyr Tydfil – 97
Neath Port Talbot – 94
Bridgend – 94
Caerphilly – 93
Blackpool – 92
Redcar & Cleveland – 89
Salford – 89
Prescriptions of anti-depressants per 1,000 in January 2009. Source: Prescription Pricing Authority in England and the Prescribing Services Unit in Wales.
Perhaps most concerning for me is that the region where I live, love and serve, Torfaen, is top of the league table! So the question presents itself – how should the local church respond to the problem of depression? I am no expert in the subject, though I do know many who have been/are suffering from clinical depression and I know only too well that it’s a complicated and sensitive issue, with painful roots that often go deep. I completely endorse Christians getting trained up in counselling to help those who are suffering, knowing only too well what an invaluable role they can play in helping people find freedom and peace from their depression.
However, I do passionately believe that depression, like everything else is one of the many tragic consequences of living in a sinful world, and that like with all pain, shame, suffering and darkness, the only ultimate solution is the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That might sound a bit simplistic, but I honestly believe that if the valleys were to experience a massive outpouring of revival grace and gospel power, the prescription of anti-depressants would go down overnight!
This coming weekend we remember the blood-stained cross of the Saviour who died for our sin and all its effects, and the empty grave that speaks of the new life, hope and victory that we have in Him! It’s fitting, therefore, that at Hill City Church on Sunday my beautiful wife Michelle is going to tell the inspiring story of how Jesus saved her from clinical depression as a teenager, and literally gave her life back to her. I can testify that she has been completely healed an restored by the grace of God! You’ll be able to listen to it online after the weekend. In the meantime, however, Psalm 18v16-19 perfectly captures her experience:
He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
What the valleys needs is the gospel!