We have been reading about Jonah in the Mass readings all week (Book of Jonah, Old Testament). You remember him, the guy who was in a fish’s belly for three nights before the fish vomited him upon land. Tells you about the nature of Jonah: sickening. Anyway, God told Jonah to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. If they didn’t repent, God would destroy the city. Jonah’s response? He ran the other way because he knew God was a merciful God and likely wouldn’t destroy the city. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. Tells you about Jonah’s heart: closed.
In the story, Jonah told God he wanted to die because God didn’t destroy the city. Then, he sat on a hill watching to see if God would take pity on him and do what he wanted–destroy the city. He was God’s favored prophet after all. Arrogant, yes? God replied by making Jonah miserable with the sun’s heat and wind. Then, God again asked Jonah why he was so angry and if he had the right to be angry. Jonah replied not only did he have the right to be angry but he had the right to be angry enough to want to die!
Jonah is often cited as someone who suffered depression and that it was the depression that caused him to want to die. I don’t think that’s the case because earlier in the story Jonah rejoiced that his life was saved from the belly of the fish. No, Jonah was trying to manipulate God into destroying the city. That’s not depression.
I want to clarify this because if you believe Jonah had depression it makes depression look like a choice. That is not true. Those who are depressed aren’t so because they are arrogant, angry, or manipulative. It’s because their brains aren’t working correctly. If you look at brain scans you can see very clearly see that the parts of the brain affected by depression are the ones that form memories, regulate emotions and responses to emotions, and make decisions. That tells you something about people plagued with suicidal thoughts. They don’t want them and often can’t stop them.
At the top of this website are tabs taking you to various lists of symptoms for several types of depression as well as the warning signs for suicide. Please take the time to read them. If you or anyone you know has these symptoms a physician or mental health specialist is the place to go. Don’t delay. The longer you wait the more likely your brain’s condition will worsen. You don’t get depression from arrogance, which is what the story of Jonah is about. Depression is an illness.
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Today is the feast of St. Pope John 23rd. Here is a bio. St. Pope John, pray for us. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=7305