By Holly Jo Evans, student news writer/photographer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – In chapel Jan. 29 Dr. Scott Wigginton, associate director of Campbellsville University’s Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Program and professor of pastoral ministries and counseling; Dr. Ken Hollis, associate professor and director of marriage and family therapy at CU; and Whitney Brainard, a licensed marriage and family therapist, answered questions from students about anxiety and depression.
The first question was, “when in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, what are practical ways to help and support them?”
Wigginton said to normalize those thoughts with friends, to encourage them and remind them that many people struggle in the same way and they are not alone.
He said, “One in 4 adults in America deal with some level of depression and anxiety,” so it is a normal issue.
Hollis said support is also very important. He shared a story about his brother who struggled with depression and how he sat and stared at a blank TV for hours at a time, for several months. During this, his brother had a friend that came and just sat in silence with him every day for a few hours.
Later, his brother said that this friend’s support of just being with him made more impact than other friends who had stopped by only a few times.
The next question was, “How can God use anxiety and depression for good?” Brainard answered saying God works through all things, and anxiety and depression are normal things that people deal with, and if you ask God to use what you’ve gone through for his glory, he will.
“How can you tell someone is depressed without asking?”
Hollis answered there are physical symptoms or changes you can pay attention to, but he encourages to just ask them. He reiterated what Wigginton previously stated, that “there is great value in normalizing what people struggle with.”
Brainard added that just making observations is a way to know when someone is dealing with depression or anxiety, but also paying attention to events or situations happening in someone’s life that could lead to these issues; a loss in the family, experiencing a new chapter in their life, etc.
She encouraged the audience to get more comfortable being intentional with conversations and to start asking “how are you doing in that, how is that effecting you?” before there is an issue. Brainard said being intentional with observations and asking how someone is doing will create a comfortable and trusting relationship to share those feelings.
“How can we apply scripture when Jesus ‘stuff’ is the last thing we want to hear?”
Brainard said to listen, and to start by letting them know what they are thinking, and feeling is not wrong and is normal, and that just being open to them will allow for them to eventually be receptive of scripture.
“When should I reach out for professional help with my depression?”
Wigginton said everyone struggles with different levels of depression and anxiety, but once it “begins to interfere with daily functioning for an extended period of time” professional help is the next step.
Brainard said it is never too early to begin seeking counsel. She said there are skills and tools you can learn before depression and anxiety even begin to have effect on function.
Another question was, “Have anxiety and depression become a normative trend in the youth of today?”
Brainard said she reminds her own patients that life is hard, and we experience things that are difficult, and that struggle is normal.
She added several decades ago there was a shift from thinking “life is tough when we have to do some things” to people diagnosing themselves too quickly and taking on the labels of depression and anxiety instead of realizing that sometimes life is just hard.
Hollis said people have started diagnosing themselves through online sources, labeling themselves. He said as professionals they focus on the symptoms more than the label, because that is where the issue lies.
Wigginton also shared that research shows a strong correlation between cell phone use and depression and anxiety, and he suggested checking your screen time use and sitting your phone down for a while to help that research decrease.
Wigginton said, “There are certain people who, because of nothing that they do, not even circumstances that occur to them, certainly not a sin they’ve committed, but simply because the way their brain is wired and malfunctions are more prone to depression and anxiety.”
He said they must differentiate those who have a medical problem and need medical assistance, and those who experience depression because of a bad day or normal life circumstances.
“Why is depression more prevalent in women than in men?”
Brainard said women have different hormones than men, which leads to different reactions, but also physical experiences and cultural experiences for women that are unique from men cause women to be more prone to depression.
Wigginton said women are also more likely to talk about having depression, whereas men tend to keep those feelings buried inside. Hollis said, “The numbers do say that women suffer from depression more, but I think it’s a fair question as to whether that’s accurate or whether or not it’s simply that women are more open and more likely to seek help, where men tend to internalize.”
The final question was, “How can you best get someone with depression or anxiety to seek help when there’s often a negative stigma surrounding it?”
Hollis said the importance of normalizing their feelings, and to let them know their depression or anxiety does not mean they are weak, but it is a normal part of life. He also suggested to go with them, to be a support, and be with them in it.
Hollis ended the service by saying that Christianity and religion has created this idea of, “if you trusted Jesus you wouldn’t be struggling.”
He shared that there was a time when religious people would say and believe that if a person had a physical issue it was God’s judgment, he said this idea is not as strong today; but, there is still this idea within the church that “if you trust Jesus you’re not going to struggle.”
Hollis said everyone struggles with anxiety and depression, and it is a real issue and is not something to be guilty about.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 11,500 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has Kentucky based off-campus centers in Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville and Liberty with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville. Out-of-state centers include two in California at Los Angeles and Lathrop, located in the San Francisco Bay region. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.
Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.