Meridian Church Members Tackle Depression in Their Community

May 01, 2017 | Sandra Blackmer

To address the rising rate of depression and suicide not only in the nation but also in their community, members of the Meridian (Idaho) Church hosted a nine-part weekly Depression and Anxiety Recovery video seminar, featuring Neil Nedley, internal medicine physician, Jan. 19–March 16 at the church. Average weekly attendance held strong at about 50, half of whom were visitors.

“Jesus’ method to reach people was to mingle with them, sympathize with them and tend to their needs,” says Ishmael Ramos, program organizer and a Meridian Church elder. “We wanted to do something that tended to people’s needs; we wanted to follow the blueprint.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 800,000 individuals worldwide die from suicide every year[i] — one every 40 seconds — and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.[ii] Idaho is not exempt. In 2015, it “had the fifth highest suicide rate, 57 percent higher than the national average,”[iii] and suicide was the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15 to 34.[iv]

The weekly two-hour seminars included a video presentation by Nedley on topics such as identifying depression and its causes, lifestyle choices and treatment, ways nutrition affects the brain, the results of positive thinking, dealing with stress, and living with loss. This was followed by group discussions and workbook assignments led by church members trained as facilitators. A total of about 15 church members helped in various ways each week with the program.

“One of the most important things was creating a safe place for the group members to talk and share and build community,” says facilitator Kathy Beagles. “In my group there were three or four people who had lost sons, so they could share their experiences of dealing with grief.”

Nedley is a practicing physician with emphases in gastroenterology, mental health and lifestyle medicine. He focuses on natural methods to tackle depression.

“Brain chemistry can be changed through nutritional, lifestyle and biblical therapies,” Nedley says. “These may include eating a plant-based diet; regular physical exercise; light therapy to correct circadian rhythms and sleep disturbances; and the elimination of nighttime screens of the TV, the Internet, computers and video games, which can result in boosting melatonin levels. Teaching the person to analyze their thoughts for distortions and correct those thoughts also can make a big difference.” He adds, however, that individuals with dysfunctional or dangerously severe depression need help from trained medical professionals in the field, beyond local church platforms.

When Michael Pearson, Meridian Church pastor, and local church elders met with Tammy de Weerd, Meridian mayor, in 2016, they garnered support from the mayor and her aides for the depression-recovery seminar. “The mayor felt this would meet a need in the Meridian community,” says Pearson. “And the response has been very positive. There were several people we couldn’t seat because of the high turnout, so we developed a waiting list. At this point we plan to hold a depression recovery seminar once a year.” Pearson also noted that follow-up programs include a cooking school and Bible studies.

The cost to attend the seminar was minimal and sponsored by church member donations.

To learn more about the Neil Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Program, go to





[iv] Ibid.