While checking the local weather forecast a while ago I noticed these items which piqued my curiosity, so I clicked the links and learned these not so upbeat bits of information. I will not list all the states mentioned in these articles. If I have included your state, I am not picking on you; I am only reporting what I found. I take little comfort in the fact that neighboring states of West Virginia and Tennessee rank lower than Kentucky in these polls. I am accustomed to my beloved Kentucky being ranked at or near the bottom of all kinds of lists. I still love it despite what the pollsters may say. (See The Weather Channel website for articles).
The Saddest State in America:
Despite West Virginia being “almost heaven” as John Denver sang in “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, it didn’t fare well in this poll. “With a well-being score of 61.3 West Virginia came in last place in the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey,” edging out Kentucky for last place.
“With a well-being score of 62.7 Kentucky came in at number 49” in this same poll. At this I am not surprised. Kentucky is usually ranked at or near the bottom of almost all lists of this sort. “Almost the saddest state in America!” Not exactly the sort of thing we might boast of on our welcome signs along the highways coming into our beautiful and friendly Bluegrass State. Maybe we haven’t gotten over Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky!” Then, too, there is all that bluegrass!
The Most Depressing States.
Again, lowest honors go to West Virginia. “The Mountain State is ranked last or next-to-last in every mental-health category on our list, including the average number of “mentally unhealthy” days residents have per month and the percentage of people who experience frequent mental distress (15%).” Wow! Double whammy! Maybe our neighbors to the east need to dust off some more of those old “feel-good” John Denver recordings!
“It may not be a coincidence that Memphis and Nashville are famous, respectively, for their blues and heartsick country music. By one measure, Tennessee is the unhappiest state in the union: Nearly 10% of residents have experienced an episode of major depression in the previous year.” Yeah, the blues in country music goes back a long way. I still remember Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” from 1949! Who knew Elvis Presley, who recorded Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” at Sun Records in Memphis, would have helped add Tennessee to the near-bottom of this list? At least Kentucky wasn’t next to last – even though it was in the bottom ten! Sorry Tennessee!
All kidding aside, I realize that there are serious economic, social and health problems in my state and in all others – even in Hawaii which was listed as the happiest state. Problems such as these are not confined to any particular area – they are a part of the human condition.
When people are subjected to stressful circumstances – loss of health, death, job stresses, loss of employment, marital problems and/or divorce and a host of other things that bear on one’s mind – these things can cause an imbalance of brain chemistry and lead to depression. Even children can suffer problems as a result of stresses in school, with their friends, bullying, merciless teasing or other things that result in low self esteem. Such problems are real. We should never just “blow off” someone who seems to have a problem with clinical depression. To discourage someone who needs treatment from getting the help they need can have devastating results. I know something of what I am saying here, having had a bout with depression myself. Thankfully I am off medication now, but when I needed the antidepressant it was a godsend.
Some think that depression and other such problems people suffer are not really a health problem – that they are faith problems. Some recommend that one just pray or turn their problems over to the Lord, and I would not discourage anyone from praying or striving to have greater faith, but depression is a real disease of both mind and body just as surely as hormonal imbalances or vitamin or mineral deficiencies can cause serious health problems. And there is no shame in seeking medical treatment or counseling for such illnesses. It is far better to seek help than to suffer from an illness you cannot cure by just deciding to have a better attitude toward life. It is neither a reflection on your character nor your faith that you do so.
Some of the greatest men of the Bible endured times of sadness and discouragement – and yes, dare we say it – depression. Take the example of Elijah, who after his contest with the prophets of Baal was so down as a result of Queen Jezebel’s threats to kill him that he pleaded with God to take his life. And after forty days journey away from Jezebel he still was “crying the blues” so to speak, expressing the same complaint twice …
“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10, 14)
There is no more plaintive cry than that found in Psalm 42. Remember these were poems – songs in which worshipers poured out before God the pain and anguish of soul they were suffering at various times…
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:5-10).
No, there is no shame in admitting to God the anguish of heart one suffers. He knows we are human. He knows and sympathizes with our situation. He is big enough to endure our complaints – even those against him. He will help us in times of trouble. But sometimes we must realize that the help he offers us is in the form of people with knowledge and skill who can deal professionally with our illnesses.
There is also the reality that sometimes the problems we endure are as a result of our own irresponsible, sinful behavior. Guilt can drive us to such a state of mind that it consumes us. In such cases it is not helpful and sometimes extremely destructive for someone to make the already miserable, guilt-ridden individual feel even more guilty. Sometimes well-meaning Christians can do this. Paul encouraged the Corinthian Christians that instead of continuing to shun the sinful man about whom he had given them instructions previously, now “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7).
What someone needs who is already beating themself up over the bad things they have done is not someone pouring gasoline on the fire, but someone who will gently and lovingly turn them toward the proper solution which is repentance and forgiveness. And if need be, try and get them professional help if they have done such damage to themselves they are not able to overcome the problem by themselves.
Such as these also need to forgive themselves as well as knowing they have been forgiven by God and by others. There is nothing better to take the weight of the world off your shoulders than to know you are forgiven!