A woman sat in my counseling room and heaved that long and somewhat discouraging sigh I had come to associate with the depressed. Her name could have been “Mrs. Everything”—you name it, she had it.

Leaving her expensive ranch-style home and a wardrobe filled with stylish clothes, she drove her troubles to my office in a brand new car. She had three lovely school-age daughters and a dynamic executive-type husband who had “never been unfaithful.” Even though she possessed almost everything she wanted, she was not happy. Three times a week for two months she had been seeing a psychiatrist, yet only two nights before coming to me Mrs. Everything had almost taken her life. In a state of depression she had lowered the shades in her bedroom, crawled back into bed as soon as the girls had left for school, and pulled the sheets up over her head. Her well-groomed appearance to the contrary, she claimed that she had climbed out of such a bed to visit my office.

Although that young mother’s case of depression was severe, it was not the worst I had ever seen. In fact, her emotional condition was not at all uncommon, for the majority of people I counsel are depressed. In talking to other counselors, I find this to be the general rule. On almost any day the average counselor is confronted with several cases of depression. A prominent psychologist recently observed, “Every one of us is depressed at times. It is perfectly normal.” A medical doctor, lecturing to other doctors on how to diagnose depression, commented, “In a sense, depression should be expected in every individual.”

For many years depression has been the nation’s number one emotional illness and it is on the increase. At more than forty Family Life Seminars I have conducted in various parts of the country, my cassette lecture on “The Cause and Cure of Depression” has without exception sold more than any other lecture—even more than “Sexual Harmony in Marriage,” “Overcoming Worry,” “Why Opposites Attract Each Other,” and ten other selections.

In late June of 1995, CNN News carried the report of the one-thousandth person who leaped to his death off the San Francisco Bay Bridge. The reporter went on to assert that “over half a million people attempt suicide each year in the United States of whom close to 30,000 are successful.” Then he said, “Even though we have a skyrocketing murder rate in this country, more people die by suicide than in all the nation’s homicides.” I had never thought that suicide was more frequent today than murder, but statistically, between five and six thousand more people die by their own hand every year than by someone else’s.

What would cause a reasonably normal person to climb up onto that beautiful San Francisco Bay Bridge and leap to his or her death? Momentary depression! At the point when a person’s depression becomes so intense that it overpowers the natural self-preservation instinct, potentially anyone can take his or her own life. That is one reason I always take people seriously if they threaten to commit suicide—unless they have a history of using that ploy to gain attention. But even then I would be reluctant to ignore that threat.

Some counselors say that a large number of these self-inflicted deaths could have been avoided, and that is probably true. For that kind of depression is usually short-lived, and if the person is given physical or spiritual help when they have lost all hope, there is a very strong possibility that he or she can be helped out of that slough of despond and go on to live a long and productive life. I believe there is hope for the depressed. That is why I wrote this book—and it is probably why you are reading it. You either want hope for your depression or suggestions on how to help a loved one who is depressed.

Tim LaHaye, How to Win Over Depression (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

Please pray for me as I prepare to share a compassionate word about the Bible and depression this Sunday, June 9. If you know a friend who struggles, you might invite them to join us.