The incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the world to encounter a reset. When the music stopped suddenly, the world was not ready and humanity began scrambling to make sense of the New Normal, to find coping mechanisms, and to adapt to the changes that came with the pandemic.

It has not been an easy time. The news reports are fraught with daily updates about new cases of transmission, novel variants that the vaccines have no power over yet, and the news of human hardship, tribulation and suffering as a result of the pandemic has become daily conversation fodder. It is especially frustrating to read of those in society who despite the issued Health Guidelines have decided not to do their part, and in fact have blatantly disregarded the health and safety of their fellow residents by walking about without masks, and worse showing the ugly side of humanity by reprimanding those who have politely reminded them to sanitise their hands or to keep their masks on in a silly show of arrogance and power struggle. In India, the overwhelming numbers of deaths and incidences of COVID-19 have left the hospitals struggling for space and oxygen. The poor at the bottom rungs of society have been the most hard-hit. Not being able to afford the rising and exorbitant costs of cremation, the poor of India have resorted to dumping their dead love ones by the thousands into the already polluted water of the Ganges River. According to the United Nations (n.d.), the pandemic has taken at least  1.6 billion children and youth out of school, while 369 million children, youth-at-risk, social welfare and financial aid dependents who depend on school meals for sustenance and nutrition had to look elsewhere for their daily food needs. While in other areas, issues of employment, underemployment, unemployment, loss of income and jobs, stress and anxiety about finances, escalating and exponential debt, the anxiety and cabin fever of a seemingly clamp-down of one’s freedom through lockdown, have proved detrimental to overall mental health and well-being.

With this arduous chapter in our lives, there has been also a higher incidence of Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression. Depression affects the person by modifying the levels and capacities to function in countless areas of a person’s daily life: a) affecting a person’s sleep – with an incidence of insomnia – an inability to sleep, or hypersomnia – oversleeping, b) wrecking eating habits – overstimulation – overeating or a suppression of appetite, c) creating a loss of excitement and pleasure in one’s hobbies and daily activities, and in the things that once brought joy, d) diminishing levels of concentration and focus, leading to a higher incidence of irritability and distraction, e) constant mood swings, f) depletion of energy levels, g) having adverse effects on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and h) manifesting destructively in one’s social life, are seen in the wake and aftermath of Clinical Depression. The symptoms in no particular order, and being manifested differently for individuals, include:

  1. Persistent low moods,
  2. A cloud of overhanging and profound, indescribable sadness or melancholy,
  3. Problems with self-worth and identity,
  4. Bursts of irritability and unexplainable anger,
  5. A feeling of helplessness and resignation,
  6. Grief that does not seem to go away,
  7. A general and persistent pessimism,
  8. Overall fatigue and lethargy every day,
  9. Diminished ability to think or come to rational thought,
  10. Recurring thoughts of death/suicide
  11. Psychomotor agitation or retardation – feelings of restlessness or being slowed down
  12. Significant weight loss or gain
  13. Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all activities including things that used to spark joy (World Health Organisation, 2020; National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.).

Depression is complex, with some individuals showing all symptoms, or a combination of symptoms, and may be triggered via complex chemical and hormonal imbalances in the brain – depleting levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine that contribute largely to a person’s sense of well-being, incidences and events that lead to higher anxiety and the increase in the stress hormone cortisol, a lack of sunlight, a malfunction in neurotransmitters and receptors, and could be magnified in drug and substance abuse (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d. b). Depression also affects more people than we would like to believe. The stigma surrounding the pursuit of mental health and well-being by seeing a Mental Health professional or therapist also acts as a deterrence to individuals seeking help. In a 2016 survey by the Institute of Mental Health (2018) that was published in 2018 in Singapore, it was found that 1 in 7 persons has experienced either a mood disorder like depression, a mental disorder, like bi-polarity, or an anxiety disorder in Singapore. In a more recent 2021 survey, it was found that 1 in 43 people in Singapore had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, or a psychotic disorder (Institute of Mental Health, 2021).

There are three lines of treatment for Clinical Depression:

  1. Working with a Medical Professional, such as a counsellor, or a psychologist to unpack the triggers and the issues and individual may have.
  2. This Medical Professional may prescribe the use of anti-depressive medication after his or her professional diagnosis. It is paramount that the individual takes his or her medication on time, regularly, and to finish the course of medication as prescribed.
  3. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)- a psychotherapeutic therapy technique where the Professionally-trained therapist helps the client to replace irrational, illogical, negative, defeatist, and overtly pessimistic self-statements with more optimistic and hopeful statements. CBT is evidence-based and proven to work. In this way a person who may spiral through the utterances of negative self-statements, such as, ” I am a loser and not good at anything”, may be led via Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to see the exceptions and his or her own merits, and to break-through these all-or-nothing, or blanket negative generalisation statements. Through Cognitive Re-structuring, the Professional therapist helps the person to replace irrational self-talk, with positive and rational self-talk and thoughts.

From a Catholic perspective, there is also the arsenal comprising of the Sacraments of Reconciliation, and Holy Eucharist, Scripture, and Prayer, that imbue a person with the Holy Spirit, fortitude, grace, and strength to overcome Depression. While there has been a general poor response to raising awareness of Depression, the Catholic perspective has to do with restoring the wounded person in the dignity and likeness of God, and as fully ransomed and redeemed by God. These are tangible and necessary steps towards the inner healing of a person suffering from Depression. These have to be complementary to the professional physical help that is sought such as the booking of regular counselling sessions to help in the physical areas of Depression, while strengthening the person spiritually with the help of God to tackle these issues emotionally and spiritually.

The Catholic individual is also not alone in his or her wrestling with Depression. There are patron saints that the Catholic individual may call upon for speedy help:

  • St. Ignatius of Loyola – St Iggy struggled in his life with anxious scrupulosity and perfectionism. He battled with crippling self-doubts, paralysing insecurity, irritability, and unrest, even to the point of contemplating suicide. How he overcame his depressive episodes was by turning his thoughts during those times towards dialogue with God.
  • St. Jean Marie Vianney – suffered from incredible low self-esteem. In spite of all the amazing good that he had done, he failed to see himself as having any worth. He had an intense inferiority complex and would often consider himself useless and worthless ( a symptom of depression). He overcame these episodes by constantly turning towards God.
  • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton – suffered bouts of debilitating loneliness and sadness. She even contemplated death as a resort many times. Her life was fraught with despairing events – her husband left her a widow while he was very young, her family came to much financial disrepair and difficulty after her conversion to Catholicism, and she lost many friends and relatives who rejected her for her conversion. Daily Eucharist and the immersion of herself in works of Charity graced her with the strength to overcome her depression.
  • St. Augustine – had numerous mood swings and would oscillate between mania and despair. He struggled with anger management and a deep sense of psychomotor agitation and restlessness. His remedy was to engage himself in healthy activities such as  prayer, sacrifice, writing, and works. it also helped that he had a constant Prayer Warrior – St. Monica who was praying for him all the time.
  • St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) suffered with depression. She was scorned for her Jewish descent and humiliated countless times because she was a woman.  She found her solace in the teachings of the Church and in the Truth that was God alone, that helped her to overcome her inner prejudices and the darkness of Nazism of that time.
  • St Mark Ji Tianxiang – struggled with addiction and co-dependency. A doctor of respectable repute, he experimented with opium as a means to cure a stomach ailment that he had. He soon became addicted to it, and was excommunicated by the Church which at that time did not understand the dynamics of addiction, and thought that he was not repentant for his sin. Despite this, he remained faithful to the Church and would attend the daily Eucharist without receiving Jesus physically, with that prayer that he may one day return back to Communion and become a martyr for the Church. In the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, as Christian families were rounded up and executed, he went to his execution singing the Litany of Mary, and thus became a martyr for the faith. He overcame the toxic effects of addiction by just showing up and being faithful to the presence of Jesus.
  • St. Jane Francis de Chantal – and her three children were forced to live with her abusive and dysfunctional father-in-law after her husband died. As such, she struggled constantly from the ramifications of trauma and had constant bouts of depression and anxiety. She made a grace-filled choice of choosing to respond to the father-in-law’s cruelties with compassion and charity. God became her inner strength.
  • St. Dymphna – was only 11 years old when her father became widowed and started to make perverse sexual advances towards her. She stood firm in her refusal, saying that, “This is not what God wants”. Her father enraged, grabbed a knife and stabbed her to death after being refused on countless occasions. With her last breath she chose to forgive her father.
  • St. Teresa of Calcutta –  did not feel the presence of God in the last 15 years of her life, and suffered from an intense dark night of the soul. She struggled with doubt and believing in the presence of God: “Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart – & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God, – please forgive me.” Yet, she overcame her doubt by humble surrender to God.
  • St. Mary of Egypt – struggled with sexual addiction and had been a prostitute from the age of 12. She engaged in sexual promiscuity for 17 years and joined a pilgrimage to seek out more sexual clients. However, God worked in her powerfully, and gave her a desire to see the relic of the True Cross. She tried to enter the church but a mysterious force kept her from crossing the threshold. Seeing a statue of the Virgin Mary, she begged for forgiveness and promised to renounce her sinful life if she could enter the church. She was able to do so and in turn walked away from prostitution. She became a desert hermit – fasting, praying and living alone for 47 years.

These are but some of the many saints who suffered greatly in their lifetime, some form of mental anguish. They are our buddies and will help us when we cry out to them for help.

The Cross of Depression is difficult, but let us unite our sufferings with the Holy wounds of Jesus, knowing that the Maker of the human heart sees us, and knows what we need, even before we utter it.


A Prayer of Unknowing By Thomas Merton

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.

– Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, page 79.

Prayer Against Depression by St. Ignatius

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

– Saint Ignatius of Loyola

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan


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Institute of Mental Health. (2021, May 21). 1 in 43 people in Singapore had a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders in their lifetime Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved June 3, 2021 from

National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). Major Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved June 3, 2021 from

National Institute of Mental Health (n.d. b) Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved June 3, 2021 from

World Health Organisation. (2020, January 30). Depression. World Health Organisation. Retrieved June 3, 2021 from

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