What Missionaries Ought to Know about Depression

  • Approximate Time Commitment: 15 minutes

What Missionaries Ought to know… does not mean that the author sat down and decided what missionaries ought to know, but rather what missionaries themselves asked about these topics. During the author’s 35 years of college teaching, he learned that if one person asks a question, others probably want to know the same thing—and if two people ask, it was certainly a topic that others need to know about. These are things missionaries need to know because several missionaries have asked about each of them at one time or another.

To read more from the What Missionaries Ought to Know series


Resource Description


It occurs to you that you have been feeling really sad, tired, discouraged about the future, unable to concentrate for some time, and you begin to wonder what is wrong. You just wish you could feel happy and enjoy life again. Certainly committed Christian missionaries could not be depressed, could they? Wouldn’t God keep them from that? Should you pray? See someone for counsel? See your physician? Will you get better? How long will you feel like this? Let’s consider some of these questions.

How do I know if I’m depressed?

The definition of depression changes slightly from time to time, but currently a person must have at least one of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for two or more weeks to be considered “clinically depressed:”

  • Feel sad, depressed, or empty
  • Lose interest or pleasure in almost all activities

In addition, the person must have more than three or four of the following nearly every day for the same two or more weeks:

  • Great increase or decrease in appetite
  • Sleeping much more or less
  • Agitation or sluggishness
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Decreased ability to think or decide
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

These symptoms must be bad enough to distress you or impair your daily functioning and not be caused by drugs, hormonal imbalance, or other physical problems. If you do not have at least five of these symptoms (including one of the first two), then you do not meet the definition of “clinical” depression. Even if you are not clinically depressed, suggestions in this brochure may be of benefit to you.


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