Depression and anxiety have dominated the emotional landscape this week, prompted by the tragic death of Robin Williams. Tucked into the stream of stories about the legacy of laughter that he left behind are also stories with sobering statistics about the impact of depression on our lives, as well as posts and articles about what one can do to combat depression.

In healthcare we view depression in clinical terms, as a condition that we have important therapies and resources to treat. My colleague and friend, Kevin Young, president of Adventist Behavioral Health, reminded me that we also need to understand it in personal terms: “Mental illness can affect anyone at any time.  As we care for the needs of our patients throughout Adventist HealthCare, let’s not forget the importance of maintaining our own mental wellness and offering compassion to others who are seeking help.”

This is such an important perspective, and one that is affirmed in our Values and Critical Success Factors. As we seek to both deliver extraordinary care and be a great place to work, an appreciation for the mental health struggles that impact our communities AND our own staff must be a part of the way we do our work.

It is so important to understand that depression is a mental illness, that it should not be stigmatized or ignored, and that it should be treated like any other life-threatening illness or disease.  Fortunately, we do have wonderful resources available for addressing mental illness—for our patients, our staff, and our community.

This week I was reminded of two texts from scripture that have always given me courage and comfort—words that I first heard when I was just a child.  The first, from the biblical book of Deuteronomy, says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). I have found that faith in God is a significant factor in how we understand the world, and I believe that God has nothing but love, grace, and acceptance for all those suffering from mental illness (or any life-threatening illness).

A second text, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth, calls us to praise God as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” But Paul doesn’t stop there—he has another message for caregivers, such as those of us who work in healthcare. Paul suggests that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  I find both comfort and challenge in those words. They speak eloquently to both our own personal encounters with mental illness and our calling to a ministry of healing.

May you be blessed with a sense of God’s own comforting presence in your life and work during this time. And may God continue to use us as we seek to bring the benefits of good medicine and extraordinary care to all those who are confronted by depression and mental illness.