The Catholic Guide to Depression
How the Saints, the Sacraments and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again
By Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., with Father John Cihak
Sophia Institute Press, 2012
288 pages, $19.95
To order: sophiainstitute.com
It is highly unlikely that anyone reading this review has been untouched by clinical depression, either as one who has suffered from it or as one who knows others who have.
Dr. Aaron Kheriaty (with Father John Cihak) has written a book to address clinical depression from a perspective that fully acknowledges both its biological and spiritual dimensions.
The Catholic Guide to Depression: How the Saints, the Sacraments and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again, published by Sophia Institute Press, is, as far as I know, the only book of its kind from a Catholic point of view.
This book provides a full explanation of the illness and current treatments, along with sound advice on how spiritual methods of prayer and the sacraments can assist the standard pharmacological and cognitive treatments.
The first part provides a detailed explanation of types and causes of depression and related disorders, their relation to the spiritual life and the tragedy of suicide. The second part moves on to modes of treatment, with chapters on medication and other biological treatments, psychotherapy, spiritual help for depression, and Divine filiation and hope.
In the foreword, David Franks writes:
“No dramatic aspect of life, and certainly not depression, can be adequately accounted for without the Christian revelation of Christ. … There is a powerful spiritual reality at play, but the insinuation the sufferer is somehow at fault gets things exactly backward; it is the innocence of the depressed one that is the key. This book descends into crucial details about mental illness, but even more impressively descends into the mystery of this, as of all, suffering.”
In speaking to a gathering of psychiatrists, John Paul II offered an explanation of the connection between psychiatry or psychology and religion:
“By its very nature, your work often brings you to the threshold of human mystery. It involves sensitivity to the tangled workings of the human mind and heart and openness to the ultimate concerns that give meaning to people’s lives. ... The confessional is not and cannot be an alternative to the psychotherapist’s or psychiatrist’s office, nor can one expect the sacrament of penance to heal truly pathological conditions.”
In a particularly helpful chapter near the end of the book — “Divine Filiation and the Virtue of Hope” — Blessed John Paul is quoted again:
“Christ took all human suffering on himself, even mental illness. ... Yes, even this affliction, which perhaps seems the most absurd and incomprehensible, configures the sick person to Christ and gives him a share in the redeeming Passion.”
The book includes sources for further readings from Catholic authors well-known to Register readers and other Catholic mental-health specialists, such as Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons and Paul Vitz.
This is not a book you take with you on vacation as light reading, but it should be in every Catholic home.
Depression is rampant in our country, for a variety of reasons that the author touches upon in the book. Let us place our hope in the Lord and his merciful Mother, while also taking advantage of the medical help that is available.
Father C. J. McCloskey III is a Church historian and research fellow
at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington.