Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

What Do People Say When You Are Depressed?

What Do People Say When You Are Depressed?

by Rick Qualls

People say all kinds of things when they discover you are suffering from depression.

Here are some unhelpful things you might hear:

“There is always someone who is in worse shape than you are.” Depression is not a competition. Comparing illnesses only induces guilt. Yes, others are hurting. But that is not the point. Don’t discount your illness and its effect on you and others.

“You are just sad.” No. Depression is more than sadness. We all are sad at times, but depression is a disease. Depression affects physical health such as sleeping habits, brain chemistry, appetite, and the slowing down of speech and actions.

Oppressive negative thoughts accompany depression. Depression affects your spirit. You may lose meaning in life. You may question your faith and prayer life.

Depression is a disease that affects your whole life. It is far more than sadness.

“Cheer up! Have happy thoughts.” Negative thoughts overtake the sense of joy or cheerfulness that you once had. Why does this happen? No one knows. It may be brain chemistry, a genetic dysfunction, the electrical impulse that has created patterns of thinking that are negative, or even tragic events may have induced a depressive state.

No one wants to suffer depression. If happy thoughts could cure, there would be less misery in the world.

Here are helpful things you may hear:

“You are important to me.” To have someone stay in the dark shadows with you is a precious gift. You may not feel worthy of the people who remain in your life.

Some people will not be able to follow you into the darkness. They may be afraid. Afraid that depression is contagious. Or they don’t know what to do. They want to “fix” you, but they can’t and are frustrated. Family members may have guilt feelings that keep them at a distance.

But those who say, “You are important to me. I will stay with you through this” are gifts from God.

The words, “You are not going crazy.” There are medical reasons for the way that you feel, and affirmation from those who care bring relief. Depression brings fear of slipping more deeply into the shadows. Words of affirmation from caring people remind us that our experience is a regular part of depression.

Some may say, “I am glad to help you.” When they say this, they are specific about what they can do. They may offer to listen or walk with you. Perhaps they may watch a movie with you, become your exercise partner, or check on you every day.

We live in a society of words. Some words are meaningless noise. Some words hurt and other words build people up.

Filtering out negative words is hard. They stay with us longer than positive words. (Some clinicians believe that it takes five positive comments to make up for one negative one.)

One thing that I try to do, though not always successfully, is to assume the speaker means well but doesn’t understand depression. I try to hang on to the positive comments as long as possible.

Be aware of the power of words. The Bible reminds us that we have a responsibility for our what we say.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

Parts of this article are from Rick’s book: Bright Spots In The Darkness: Meditations When You Are Depressed. See this and other writings at

  • Bright Spots in the Darkness Christians can be depressed. Yet there is stigma in the church for suffering depression. Well-meaning people will say: “Just get over it.” “Think about good things.” “Confess your hidden sin.” “You must not be reading your Bible enough.” Instead of help, you may find judge…

How To Deal With Fear And Anxiety Of The Future By: Stanley Popovich

How To Deal With Fear And Anxiety Of The Future By: Stanley Popovich

By: Stanley Popovich

Almost everybody worries about what will happen in the future. The prospect of not knowing if something good or bad will happen in the near future can produce a lot of fear and anxiety.

As a result, here is a list of techniques and suggestions on how to deal with fear of the unknown.


1.No one can predict the future with one hundred percent certainty. Even if the thing that you feared does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can’t predict which can be used to your advantage. For instance, you are at work and you miss the deadline for a project you have been working on for the last few months. Everything you feared is coming true. Suddenly, your boss comes to your office and tells you that the deadline is extended and that he forgot to tell you the day before. This unknown factor changes everything.


  1. Learn to take it one day at a time.Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming months, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. When the time comes, hopefully you will have learned the skills to deal with your situation.


  1. Use Self-Visualization.Sometimes, we can get anxious over a task that we will have to perform in the near future. When this happens, visualize yourself doing the task in your mind. For instance, you and your team have to play in the championship volleyball game in front of a large group of people in the next few days. Before the big day comes, imagine yourself playing the game in your mind.  By playing the game in your mind, you will be better prepared to perform for real when the time comes. Self-Visualization is a great way to reduce the fear and stress of a coming situation.


  1. Remember to take a deep breath and try to find something to do to get your mind off of you anxieties and stresses.A person could take a walk, listen to some music, read the newspaper, watch TV, play on the computer, or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things. This will distract you from your current worries.


  1. One of the ways to manage your fears is to challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make you fearful or depressed, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense.


  1. Worrying can make the problem even worse.All the worrying in the world will not change anything. All you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and when something does happen, take it in stride. If you still have trouble dealing with anxiety of the future, then talking to a counselor or clergyman can be of great help.


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Making Self-Care a Way of Life by Jamie Meyer

Making Self-Care a Way of Life by Jamie Meyer


Having a mental health diagnosis can make it difficult to care for ourselves. For people who don’t have a diagnosis, self-care is mostly a matter of choosing and making time for the things that will lead to better health. For those of us with a brain illness, it isn’t quite that simple. The question we’re more likely to ask ourselves is “Am I able?” Ability is the key word here because there are times when our symptoms can prevent us from caring for ourselves as well as we’d like.

Although we often think of self-care as something we do, it also means protecting our thought life. Nothing good comes from feeling ashamed when you can’t get out of bed or can’t concentrate because of racing thoughts.

We need to stop comparing ourselves to people who don’t have a diagnosis and let go of the messages from our culture that tell us productivity defines our value as a person. We need to be more gentle with ourselves and accept the truth–even if we don’t “feel” it’s true–that we have great value because we are God‘s creation and are loved unconditionally by Him.

After being diagnosed with Bipolar 2, I spent many years telling myself that my life was less valuable because I could no longer work full-time or take part in all the activities I had before. I beat myself up for being lazy and not trying hard enough. I felt ashamed because I didn’t want to be around other people.

When I began to interact with like-minded people in our Fresh Hope group, I came to realize that they too felt “less than” after their diagnosis. I learned from them that it’s okay to make caring for myself a priority. I felt understood and no longer needed to hide in shame.

I’ve come to accept that I’m not the same person I was before being diagnosed. But you know what? Neither is anyone else. Everyone grows and changes over time whether they have a diagnosis or not.

I’m learning to focus on the things I’m able to do, activities that are fulfilling yet keep me mentally stable. I work evenings part-time so I don’t have to get up early and I volunteer in smaller but just as valuable ways.

Another way I care for myself is by giving back to people like myself who live with the challenges of a mental health condition. In 2012, I put my personal journey into words when I wrote the book, “Stepping Out of Depression: Fresh Hope for Women Who Hurt” (available on Amazon). I wanted women to know they were not alone in dealing with depression, that true hope and healing are possible.

I also find fulfillment in giving encouragement and support to the wonderful people in our Fresh Hope group. Doing so helps me feel like I’m making a difference in my small corner of the world.

Caring for yourself involves more than eating right, exercising and reducing stress. It includes having supportive relationships and being involved in something that is meaningful to you. Self-care also means accepting the truth that you have value and purpose because of who you are, not what you do. You choose to let go of shameful thoughts and stop putting yourself down.

When we decide to make self-care a priority, life can become more satisfying and meaningful. Although we may not escape the ongoing challenges of our brain illness, we significantly improve our chances of living well in spite of it.

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Sticks and Stones…. By Rick Qualls

Sticks and Stones…. By Rick Qualls

By: Rick Qualls

Words have the power to heal or to wound.

Depression is a disease that creates low self-esteem. It causes us to perceive events and comments negatively. When we are depressed we are particularly effected by toxic people.

What are some of the things that you may hear when you are depressed and truths to help you as you hear these statements.

“There are others who are worse off than you.”  Depression is not a game of comparison. Regardless of what others are experiencing. That is not the point. You are experiencing a disease that has emotional, physical, and spiritual components. Don’t discount the impact of your depression. You need to address your depression before you can hep others.

“I think you are just trying to hurt me. “ Depression is hard on relationships. Friends and family may feel as though you are distancing from them. They may not understand this is a symptom of the disease. They believe that you don’t want to be with them when the issue is simply a lack of energy for activities or even for the energy relationships take.

“I understand what you are feeling. I was depressed for a few days.” As you are aware, having the “blues” for a short time is not the same as depression. One of the criteria for diagnosing depression is that the symptoms must be present for a minimum of two weeks.  

Generally these are people who are trying to empathize but don’t understand that symptoms of depression are physical, emotional, and spiritual. Often this comment is an attempt to care exhibit care for you.

“You just need to pray more…have more faith…” These comments are like saying to someone who has diabetes to pray more. Implying that depression is a person’s fault because they are not spiritual enough and creates more guilt. Again, these people don’t understand about the disease of depression.

If it is your friend who is depressed it is more helpful to offer to listen, encourage them to seek treatment. Remind them they are precious to God and to you.

You are crazy!“  Run away. Seriously, get distance between you and the person who says that. They are toxic for you.

Let it go…you will get over it.” People don’t understand that the brain is a physical organ that it can have a disease like any other organ in the body. These comments make you feel

“Just cast the demon out, go on medication, or get counseling—and move on.”  We all like quick fixes. But real life is not like that. You are a whole person. Depression effects every part of our life. Healing will probably take time. Healing of whole person is your goal. Remember your path to healing unique.

There are people who care. They may not understand your experience in your depression. But never forget there are people who care.


Two of my favorite Bible verses about words are:

Proverbs 12:18 …but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Words have the power to heal or wound. Seek healing words.

Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Waiting Patiently by Sandy Turney

Waiting Patiently by Sandy Turney


What do you feel when you read “wait patiently”?

For me, it brings up uncomfortable feelings! I like everything under control, and I like to control things as much as I possibly can. I don’t like to wait until the last minute to do things. I make lists and check things off as I go.  So waiting patiently is difficult for me. I feel more calm if I know what is expected or what will be happening next.  This is something I have to continually work at.

However, during difficult times, whether it’s a time of depression or having to adjust medications and waiting for them to work, I find it extremely challenging to be patient. I feel anxious and sometimes lost when I have no control. Waiting for medication to work can sometimes take a few weeks, and when we are having problems with our mental health, we all want to feel better NOW, right?

Once I was having a rough time with depression. I was trying to work through it by paying attention to my triggers and using all the tools I’ve learned to move through it. My depression became worse to the point I went to see my psychiatrist. By this time, I had dealt with it for a few months so I was really in a bad place. My doctor adjusted some of my medications and after two weeks I discovered it was causing some side effects as well as not working. So then we had to make more adjustments. Overall, it took a lot more time than I “had planned”.

In the in-between time, I was struggling. As you know, when you feel sad, cry a lot, become irritable or angry, it’s not fun and, for me, I want it fixed fast. So what happens to me in these times is I search, think, and try to figure out what I can do to make it better as quick as possible. I read articles and/or books and it seems my mind is continually thinking about what I can change to get things “normal” for me.

I constantly seek to find something I can control. And therein lies the issue, I’m trying to control things and not be patient. During this particular time, I found one of my study books which gave verses for particular areas in our lives. I looked through it and asked God to show me what He wanted me to do. I read for awhile and came across Psalms 37:7 “Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act.” Immediately, the verse stuck out to me. I thought ‘really Lord, you know who you’re talking to, right?’ I sat reading the verse and I began to write it over and over; writing is therapeutic for me. I continued to talk with God and I believe He was telling me to just wait on Him. Strangely enough, it felt like the verse gave me permission; permission to rest and not be in a tizzy trying to make something happen, trying to control things….just wait.

So I did just that. When I came home from work I used that time to read, study, relax, and go to bed early. I didn’t feel like I had to be in control. Instead of searching, I had more time to be with God and let Him take care of things while I was waiting to feel better.

So I would like to encourage you to try a few things:
1. Give yourself permission to wait patiently for God to act, because He has already given us permission.
2. Learn and monitor your triggers.
3. Use the “waiting” moments to take care of yourself and draw closer to God.


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


Free Fresh Hope App​

Free Fresh Hope App​


Did you know that Fresh Hope has an app for both Apple and Android mobile devices?The app allows you to have all of our online resources (blogs, videos, podcasts, newsletter, recovery principles, etc.) all at your finger tips in one place.

Click on your store’s icon, and it will take you directly to the download:

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Three Important Questions to Ask Those Affected By the Recent Flooding

Three Important Questions to Ask Those Affected By the Recent Flooding

By: Brad Hoefs

Natural disasters are a fact of life. We know they happen, and we know that they can be quite severe, and can have a long-term effect on those who are affected by the disaster. We hear of people enduring floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and we see the devastation on our television screens. However, when it happens to us, a natural disaster takes on a whole new meaning.

Recently here in the Midwest we’ve experienced catastrophic flooding. The flooding was quite severe just a mile from my own home in West Omaha. The damage is so extensive that nearly everyone was directly impacted, or knows someone who was. They say it’s the 500 Year Flood, and lives have been interrupted in major ways. Families are displaced. Some are being told that they can’t rebuild their homes. Some farmers have lost not only the top soil, which is so important in farming, but they’ve also lost scores of livestock. And not just to drowning, but totally lost. Herds of pigs washed away by raging floodwaters. One young man shared with me that his family has a farm, and they are devastated by the loss of a large herd of horses. To make matters worse, the water is still there so they can’t even get in to start the process of cleanup.

I think most people understand and anticipate that mental health issues are more prevalent, and the needs rise, after a natural disaster. Any life-interrupting event like that easily triggers anxiety or depression from the ongoing stress, as well as PTSD. Research shows that mental health issues can increase by at least 100% following a natural disaster. That’s incredible when you think about the fact that prior to a disaster, normal statistics tell us that about 25% of the American population has a mental health challenge in any given year. So if that number increases by 100%, this means 50% of the people experiencing a natural disaster are suffering in some way from some kind of mental health challenge.

Of course, that’s not too shocking, is it? If you’ve lost your home or your living, or you’ve been told that you can’t go back to your home, you can’t rebuild, or you don’t have insurance, you’re surely going to have long-term stressors. And that long-term stress affects your brain chemistry. My concern is that here in the Midwest we have a lot of farming communities that have been affected.

I grew up on a farm, so I know the farming mindset. All I have to do is think about my dad, and I can imagine how the farmers are going about this. They’re tough. They’re the kind of people who pull up their boot straps, get up, and take care of it. They start rebuilding. They’ve got work to do, and they keep their mind on that. But when you do that, it’s really easy to stuff down emotions and feelings. And while I have full respect for the farmers, I also have a deep concern that they will not recognize the fact that the ongoing stress and strain of what they’re going through will easily take a toll on their brain chemistry. My hope is that farmers will not just try to ‘suck it up’, but will get the help they need to work through their feelings and emotions, not only for themselves, but also for the sake of their families.

As we interact with those who have experienced and are experiencing the stress following a natural disaster, I’d like to suggest that we all learn three short, yet very important questions. They’re really very simple questions, but they help people start processing. And processing the pain, talking about the pain, the difficulties, and the trauma, is the single-most important factor in healing.

The first question is, “Tell me what happened.” Then listen intently. Don’t tell them not to feel this, or don’t worry about that, or pump them full of what I call toxic positivity. Sometimes we Christians do that. We don’t allow people to experience their pain or feel their emotions, or share them. We just start heaping on good Bible passages about how God’s gonna take this and make it work for their good. And while those Bible passages may be true, it’s premature, and people have feelings that have to get out. They have to be able to tell their story. To know that they’ve been heard, and that they’re being respected. So the first question is quite simple, yet very important to start the emotional recovery process. When you meet someone whose life has been greatly interrupted by a natural disaster, start with, “Tell me what happened.”

It’s important. It gets them talking about the trauma of what they’ve gone through. The more they tell that story, the less power that trauma has over them, and the less that trauma has the ability of hurting them in the future from stuffed-down emotions. Feelings and emotions have to be dealt with, and trauma and pain have to be processed. If you have unprocessed pain, unprocessed emotions, and unprocessed feelings, sooner or later they surface. They can show up in all kinds of peculiar ways, and other times they show up as anger. And sometimes they quietly take lives either by suicide, by the body breaking down, heart attacks, or anxiety attacks.

The second question is, “What was the worst part?” Again, this allows them to express their pain and difficulties, and to begin to rethink and understand their life story. They didn’t expect this to happen, and it has become a total interruption in their lives.

The third question helps them look inward: “Tell me how you’re doing. How are you feeling these days?” Again, getting them to express, to talk about, to normalize what they’ve been through helps greatly. What I know about the farming community is that probably nobody would go to a support group following a disaster. Especially in a small rural area, the attitude is that ‘you gotta be made of sterner stuff, you keep things private, and you don’t talk about them.’ Yet people are suffering. They’re going through real difficulties, as opposed to just hoping and praying that somehow it will all get better.

So, if you want to help your neighbors who’ve been through this disaster, I encourage you to ask these questions of them. Maybe you’re married to someone who’s not expressing how they feel, and they’re just kind of pulling up their boot straps and thinking they’re moving on. You can ask these questions then. Ask them in a meaningful way, in a way where you’re ready to listen and understand. You see, when people have been heard, when they’ve been understood, when they have in fact been respected so much that you take your time to listen, it helps in the healing process.

When these questions and others like this are processed early on, there’s less chance of PTSD setting in. There’s less chance of deep depression taking over. There’s less chance of anxiety patterns beginning to create a disorder for them. Simply put in layman’s terms, stress changes brain chemistry. Long-term stress really can be devastating on brain chemistry. And simply shoving the feelings down, or pretending like they’re not there, doesn’t do anything but make matters worse. Knowing that farming communities keep things private and are less likely to be open about their problems, asking these three simple questions may be the most effective way to go about helping these people.

So I ask you, has your life been interrupted by a natural disaster? Are you a victim of the flooding? Are you busy cleaning up, or is your community busy cleaning up? Hamburg, Iowa is completely under water. The community is going through this tragedy and traumatic event, yet they’re already pulling together and will get things done. But the reality is that stress also plays a part in the brain chemistry. And that’s just as important to work through as it is to clean up after the flood and get life back to normal. So, neighbor helping neighbor, ask these questions.


Fresh Hope is a faith-based non-profit that empowers people to live well in spite of their mental health challenge.

YOUR gift will provide a person with God’s Fresh HOPE for daily living. Click here to donate, today.


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