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Viewpoint from Michael Wiltshire for 13th January 2012

By Michael Wiltshire
The writer is a journalist who is also director of a business men’s Christian fellowship, FGBMI, in East Anglia.

Finding a way out of depression

Most of us appreciated receiving a cheerful New Year greeting, but the sad fact is that anxiety and depression about the future hasMichael Wiltshire reached almost epidemic proportions.
Faced with job and money fears, soaring numbers of people are turning to anti-
depressants and other pills to help combat anxiety, according to new figures from the Co-operative Pharmacy.
Nearly 50million ‘happy pill’ prescriptions were handed out last year – a rise of 26 per cent in the last four years. Experts say that one-in-four people in the UK experience some form of mental illness every year, although most will not seek advice from a doctor.  Nevertheless, talking to your GP, a trained counsellor and even a good friend is an important first step to recovery.
Emotional and spiritual crises can be triggered by many complex causes - and merely “popping pills” does not solve deep underlying issues. From a Christian viewpoint, the Bible – which is still the world’s best-selling book – offers tremendous reassurance and hope for people of all ages and backgrounds. It speaks very realistically about anxiety and stress: some of the great figures of the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Jonah, Job, Elijah and Jeremiah experienced times of despair as well as times of great faith.
King David, who wrote many of the much-loved Psalms, has brought consolation to millions through the centuries, with the words: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears,” (Psalm 34:4), and many similar passages. Bible readers through the ages have discovered the power of Scripture to bring their personal faith alive and deliverance from depression. This is specially true of the promises of Jesus who said that no matter what happens in the fDove rightuture, his words “will never pass away,” (Matthew 24:35).
Today, when so many feel isolated and struggling with low self-esteem, Jesus declares that every person is valuable to God – “and even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid,” (Matthew 10; 30-31). Later, he added: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28). That invitation still stands today. Peter, the apostle, reminded the early Christians: “Cast all your anxiety on Him (Jesus Christ), because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5: 7)
So, this New Year, you may want to rediscover the promises of God, as revealed in the Bible. Several modern languages versions are popular, such as the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and The Message version.  Keeping a daily journal and recording four or five things you are really grateful about, can also help – “count your blessings,” as the saying goes. Most churches also offer friendly advice and have links with wider community services.
For those who have anxieties about the future, a great promise for the New Year is found in the book Isaiah: “This is what the LORD says — He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
(Isaiah 43:16, 18-19).