Interview: Christian Psychiatrist on Why Holidays Are Rough for Depressed People; Forgiveness and Mental Health

Those are some professional elements. As far as things that someone can do just in and of themselves, just really having that devotional time, you know, connecting to God and having a bigger picture of you. Usually whenever we connect with God, we now have a bigger view of the situation rather than our micro me-centered view of the situation.

CP: You also mentioned that committing to forgiveness and letting go of past hurts can go a long way towards heath wellness. Explain that.

Benzio: Forgiveness is huge. Forgiveness has so many ramifications even just on our body physically. The more we understand about heart disease, we understand that pent up resentment and anger lead to a lot of the heart problems, the heart attacks and high pressure that we have. So forgiveness is impactful physically, it's incredible impactful psychologically. It helps with addiction care, it helps with depression and anxiety and anger. It obviously help with relational improvement but it also helps spiritually in our connection with God and understanding His forgiveness for us and being able to communicate that forgiveness with others.

Now unfortunately there's a lot myths about forgiveness. So a lot of times we think if we forgive we have to reconcile with that person or if we forgive we act as if nothing ever happened, like there was no transgression or we can trust that person 100 percent now or we have to forget what happened, and those are all myths about forgiveness. That's not what biblical forgiveness is. So we've all been hurt and as we've discussed earlier, a lot of those hurts get magnified during this holiday season and if we don't resolved them they're going to continue to fester and eat away and contaminate many areas of our life. Forgiveness is this big coping mechanism that God has given us to release us from some of that hurt.

CP: How can family members, friends and or church members help those feeling lonely or depressed feel at ease this season?

Benzio: We're made to be in community. Community is so powerful and impactful so you obviously want to pray for the person if they've experienced some hurt or some wounds or we notice that they just have trouble during that time of year. We might not know what their past history was but we see a discomfort in them so let's just pray for them. Stop and pray and lift them up that God's peace and encouragement and power would be evident during this especially spiritual time of year for them.

Second would be [learn] how to just invite them over, how to invite them out after church, how to invite them to lunch. If you see someone you know is going home to a sort of cold, lonely house, invite them over for some apple pie, for a cup of tea, to watch the ball game, to "hey if you got presents to wrap, why don't you come over. We've got a lot of wrapping paper and we can wrap presents together." You know, something to engage in [and] depending on the level of relationship that you have with them, how to be able to communicate, "hey, I love you, I care for you, I know you're having some troubles and some struggles this time of year. I'm here for you to talk to. I don't what to intrude on your situation and make it uncomfortable for you but I know sometimes it's really good to talk about these things or to get another perspective about them or help you with how do you manage if you're going to your relatives' house that you've had some discord. Or another cousin's going to be there that you've had an issue with. Let's practice some of those things that you can do. Let's walk through some of those steps. I'm here for you to do that with."

If you really notice them struggling, [learn] how to encourage that person to seek out some professional counseling whether that's with your Sunday school teacher, with your pastor, with a counselor in the church or with some other professional in the community that can (give) some professional coaching.

Lighthouse Network offers a toll-free, 24-hour helpline at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those struggling with feelings of loneliness, depression, anger, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness as well as online resources to understand and recognize addiction behavior.

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