What is Depression?
There is a distinct difference regarding situational depression and clinical depression. While one may have felt sad or melancholic at times temporarily, feeling depressed can be a common reaction to loss, struggle, or an injured self-esteem. Profound feelings of sadness—feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless—lasting for many days and keeping an individual from functioning normally, is clinical depression. It is not a sign of personal weakness and cannot be willed away or “gotten over,” for it is a change in the neurochemistry of the brain. Clinical depression needs professional help for treatment.
Causes of Depression
The causes are many: genetic, psychological, and environmental factors are often at hands involved. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it can occur from a variety of reasons. While genetics may play a role, the way one solves their own problems and handles the situations and challenges thrown in life may alter the mood-chemistry of the brain. Those with low self-esteem,who have a constant pessimistic view of life, who are consistently overwhelmed with stress, or who have a severe illness are prone to depression.
Could even a devout Muslim be depressed?
Yes. Being a Muslim means one submits their will to God and has full faith and trust in Him. But this does not make one invulnerable to life and the dunya. Anyone may succumb to grief and loss or have an illness like depression linked in their genes. It is not a sign of weak faith—suicide is. “And make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; but do good; for Allah loves those who do good” ( 2:195 ). God does not try a person beyond what they are capable of, despite the feelings of sadness, one would understand that solutions do not lie in ending one’s life. Islam does not require people to be superhumans, if one is experiencing negative feelings, they are encouraged to resist them, just as they are encouraged to resist any harmful acts or desires. Islam teaches not to hate or harm oneself but to have dignity, self-respect, and protection.
What to do with depression
There is a common misconception that the best way to cure depression is by going to the sheikh instead of the doctor. Allah is the greatest healer and Allah has created medicine and allowed people the ability to understand that and become healers. Allah promotes the use of doctors for they are His instruments to heal as well. This is similar to the concept of working; one works to feed themselves, they do not sit idle and expect God to feed them. A man once asked the Prophet, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel when I am away from it and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?” The Messenger of Allah said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.”
The responsibilities of having depression is not, however, to demean prayer and disregard the power supplication holds; it is encouraged to pray, but to also seek medical assistance. The responsibilities, on the other hand, are to have patience and consistency. “And never give up hope of Allah’s soothing Mercy: truly no one despairs of Allah’s soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith” (12:87). When seeking assistance from a doctor, one should be patient if medication does not work immediately—depression is an illness, and not all illnesses have cures or medications that are immediately effective. Just like any other illness, the doctor must find the right drug/therapy that works best for a specific patient, so one should not give up.
In an interview done with people who survived suicide attempts by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge, it is often they regret their decision in midair, if not before. One survivor even said “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”