Assaulted by Depression
This Guide provides only recommendations by writers who have served time in prison, based on various factors and circumstances unique to each writer. Thus, the recommendations given in the Guide are given to you for your thoughtful consideration only. You accept full personal and legal responsibility for your own life choices. You are encouraged to make your own decisions regardless of any information or suggestions given. No guarantees are given, and the Writers and Prison Fellowship will not be held accountable for any interpretations or decisions made by recipients of this Guide.
The Writers are not legal or medical professionals, and the recommendations in this Guide are not to be construed as legal, medical, or psychological advice. The reader is ultimately responsible for his/her actions or inactions, information, insights and teachings gained from this Guide, and as such, the reader is solely liable for her/his individual progress, growth, success, and failures. Remember that we all have free will to choose what is best for each of us as individuals.
Many people experience depression at some point in their lives. Nearly 20 million Americans suffer from severe, major depression, and the rate for prisoners is nearly three times that of people on the outside.
You might ignore or downplay the symptoms of depression because you think you are just going through a difficult time in your life that will eventually pass. And maybe it will. But if it doesn't, then you likely have real depression, because grief or gloominess will eventually pass, but true depression seldom goes away without some form of help or treatment.
The following is taken from the Prison Survival Guide, a unique handbook by prisoners, Prison Fellowship staff, and experts on the various issues that can come up during a prison sentence.
I'M IN PRISON AND DEPRESSED. NOW WHAT?
Medication may be available to you, even in prison. But you will have to get to a medical or mental health doctor who can make the right diagnosis and prescribe the medication you need.
In prison you might have access to a professional counselor or psychiatrist who can help you to deal satisfactorily with depressive thoughts. Depression is one of the most undertreated medical illnesses found in prisons. While depression often shows itself by a lack of pleasure rather than a presence of pain, it is still difficult to endure for those who suffer. Here are some things you can do to help ease the suffering:
EXAMINE THE CAUSE
Were you feeling depressed before you entered prison? Or is prison itself what triggered the depression? Becoming aware of what affects your mood can help you control it.
If there is no one at the prison to counsel you, talk with a friend—someone you trust—to help you see your situation realistically and rebuild your hope for the future. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone in your suffering can help ease the pain.
Walk or run as far as you can. Lift weights to stress your body instead of your mind. As you exercise, your body will release hormones that help relieve stress and fight depression.
CUT OUT ILLEGAL DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
They make depression worse mentally, physically, spiritually.
Eat vegetables and salads. Limit caffeine and sugar and cut down on the junk foods you get from the canteen.
Some doctors recommend vitamins to help with depression. Consult your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin.
Sunlight helps overcome depression, but don't overdo it to the point of sunburn or risking skin cancer.
ADJUST YOUR ACTIVITIES
Focus on positive activities that make you feel better.
AVOID BEING A LONER
Have a few trusted friends to share your time with. Choose friends who are positive, encouraging, and uplifting. They will build up your spirits instead of pushing you deeper into depression with negative talk.
DO SOMETHING FOR OTHERS
By helping someone else who is down, you will lift yourself.
DO SOMETHING CREATIVE
Try your hand at writing, painting, or drawing, for example.
GET OUT OF BED
Just going to work at a prison job—even one you may dislike—can help you beat depression. Use free time for study; prepare for your release date no matter how far away it is.
READ YOUR BIBLE
Take a look at some of the Psalms. You may be surprised to discover many of them were written when the writer was depressed and very honestly pouring out feelings of hopelessness and confusion. But the Psalms and other parts of the Bible are also full of hope and encouragement. Let God speak His words of comfort and care to you.
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