March 6, 2018

When Faith Communities Make Depression Worse

Meet Ashley Easter, powerhouse world-changer who is on a mission to empower survivors of abuse to fight for their healing while also educating church leaders on prevention and proper response to abuse. This week, she explores the challenges people of faith face when dealing with depression.


I grew up in a very conservative portion of Christianity, and I have met numerous people from similar faith backgrounds who struggle with depression. While many find solace in their faith during times of depression, unfortunately, some religious communities perpetuation harmful myths about depression that only add layers of pain to those already suffering.

Here are some of the myths about depression I have heard coming from some religious communities:

       Depression is a spiritual issue or spiritual failure.

       Prayer, Bible reading, and sermons are enough to heal depression.

       Christians shouldn’t see licensed therapists, only bible based pastoral counselors without psychology degrees.

       If you take medication for depression, you are not trusting God enough.

       Suicidal thoughts are sinful, selfish, and damming.

       You need to get over your depression, or you are outside of God’s will.

       Christians should be the happiest people in the world, if you struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts you are not a true Christian.

Despite what some may tell you, depression is not primarily a spiritual issue, and it is certainly not a spiritual failure. Science shows us that depression can be caused by a myriad of things including stress, trauma, and chemical or hormonal imbalance in the body and brain. You are not at fault for the way you are feeling. Depression and suicidal thoughts are not sinful or an act of selfishness, but they are serious mental health issues that deserve treatment.

Depression needs to be treated by mental health professionals like doctors, psychiatrists, and licensed therapists. At times a person may find comfort in prayer and scripture reading on their own or by a pastor friend, but this should be in addition to and not in contrast with professional healthcare specialists. Just as you would not seek medical attention from a pastor-counselor, who is not also a licensed medical doctor so you should not seek primary care for your mental health concerns from a pastor who is not also a credible, licensed therapist.

Professionals often have solutions and tools to address depression such as therapy treatments or medication. Relying on these medicines and medical advances, long-term or short-term, does not in anyway take away from your ability to trust in God. We take antibiotics for illness and view this prescription as a gift. In the same way, a person of faith can use medication for depression and know that this is also a gift and does not detract from their spirituality.

I was recently watching an interview with a celebrity who no longer identifies as Christian. Even though she is no longer in a faith community and she had changed her beliefs in many areas she admitted that she still has nagging guilt and fear around mental health issues such as depression and suicide due to her past faith background.

Whether you identify as Christian or not, harmful myths from spiritual leaders regarding depression can still haunt you. In addition to the science of mental health linked to above, I want to remind you that even Jesus called out in what seemed to be a depressive state in the garden right before his arrest and again in anguish on the cross. If even Jesus experienced extreme seasons of deep emotional pain, I believe God has compassion for those of us suffering from depression too.

If you are a person of faith, I want you to know that professional treatment for your depression is not in conflict with faith. You deserve to find support and healing.

If you are a faith leader, I encourage you to examine how your words around depression and other mental health issues significantly impact those in your care. When in doubt refer out to professionals and approach the subject with compassion. Doing this will show you take seriously your responsibility to safe, pastoral care.

-Ashley Easter


Ashley Easter writes, blogs, speaks, and advocates for abuse victims. She founded The Courage Conference, a yearly event that empowers survivors of abuse to fight for their healing while also educating church leaders on prevention and proper response to abuse. Ashley promotes truth-telling, advocates for gender equality, and educates churches on abuse. You can find her at; Twitter: @ashleymeaster; Facebook: /ashleymeaster

February 27, 2018

How to Handle the Responses of Family & Friends After You Break the Silence

This week, we conclude our series with Patrick Bennett. He shares with us some of his experiences telling friends and family about the abuse and navigating their responses and behaviors that followed.


OK so you have come forward about what was inflicted on you be that to the authorities or just your family and friends, you have gone through the worst of your therapies and are confident in your abilities to recognize and make use of the awesome power you have discovered within.

Life is good for you right now and you are moving on with your life, the life you have dreamed about for so long with all the freedom and aspirations of being just a normal human being. With this piece and all that in mind I don’t want to rain on your parade but I just want to share my experiences with you.

Let’s start with those closest to you, your family and loved ones. I began to notice that there was a huge difference in their behavior around me and it took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on with them. I would walk into a room and their conversation would change immediately and they would talk around subjects instead of open and honestly. They changed their attitude towards everything church and religiously oriented and they were blind to the fact that they were doing more harm than good.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand that every person is free to live their life as they wish, but they neglected to give thought to the fact that they were causing me huge feelings of guilt and shame. You see to me I was the only reason they did what they did and just like I said in an earlier piece "It was not the place that abused me, it was a person", and after many months of waiting for them to change while burying my increasing shame and guilt, I finally decided that I could not take anymore guilt and so I sat them down and finally addressed the elephant in the room.

It wasn’t easy by any means but by listening to their worries and fears and openly sharing my inner most thoughts and feelings we eventually got to a place where we both understood and respected the points we were at in accepting, respecting and moving on from what I had brought to light, and when I think about it now I have only one regret and that is that I didn’t address the issue earlier for everyone’s sake.

As for workmates and more importantly alleged friends, a lot of what I have already said applies to them too but with a huge warning to be ready for the sometimes crass remark or statement. Let’s face it, people are all different and what they deem innocent statements may be extremely hurtful to you and yes there may be times when you suffer a huge setback in your recovery process due to the careless comments of those you thought would know better.

Then of course there may be the person in your life that will say things to you or pass comments that are deliberately and deeply hurtful. How you deal with these people is totally up to you! Personally I suffered a couple of these encounters over the years and I will admit that at first I was very angry and hurt by the things I was forced to listen to and filled with this anger. I reacted very physically and vocally to these taunts, but overtime I began to realize that in fact the only person I was hurting was myself, that these people and their way of thinking were more to be pitied than anything else, and I felt sorry for them and their ignorance.

I really hope you will not have to worry about any of these examples as you move on with your life, but no matter what I urge you to always remain aware of the awesome power and strength you have not only in you but that you have shown to the world by coming forward and seeking justice for what you have had to endure. That you are an amazing person with your whole life in front of you and you can be or do anything and everything you put your mind to, provided of course that you yourself have to the best of your ability left your past exactly where it belongs, in the past, and that you accept that we cannot change either what has happened or what other people think or do if you yourself are not the very best you can be. You are a Survivor!!!

Stay safe and well,



"The ruthless honesty of Mr. Bennett means that this is not a story with a sentimental and unambiguously happy ending. He is still on a journey that is sometimes difficult and painful, but he has shown remarkable courage, integrity and honesty and done the community a service by writing this extraordinary and valuable book."

February 20, 2018

How to Create Your Own First Aid Kit for PTSD

This week, we continue our series with Patrick Bennett, in which he shares about his toolbox -- a simple strategy that helps pull him back to the "light" when he feels the darkness of PTSD surrounding him.


I find it slightly ironic that I write this piece today as not only am I sharing it with you, but I am actually using it myself due to my current state of mind following being “Triggered” by events in my life over the past few days that have left me experiencing all the “Joys” of my PTSD and Mental health turmoil.

When I am struck down as I am with these issues, it’s as if I am confined in a sealed metal box in my vain attempt to protect myself. I crawl into my shell distancing myself from every one and every thing as I sink deeper and deeper into the cold all consuming darkness or “BLACK DOG” of depression.

Thankfully, I have developed a secret weapon to reach for that helps me to slowly move towards the light of recovery again. It’s a very simple, uniquely personal and private thing that may seem of no interest to others but in time will become a treasured piece of your life.

In order to attempt any job in life you will need some tools and in turn to make life easier you will need to keep those tools close to hand and within easy reach and so I introduce you to “THE Toolbox”.

My Toolbox is a beautiful hand carved wooden box that I inherited from my late dad but you are free to choose what ever you want to use as your Toolbox with just one condition, it has to be a physical box and kept in a place that is always within easy reach. I have mine in open view as just knowing that it’s there is comfort enough (sometimes) but that choice is totally yours to make.

I reached for my box this morning and after much deliberation, I opened it and reached out for its contents in desperation and hope that its contents will somehow help me out of the darkness I am consumed by as it always does.

As I grasp each and every item it contains, I feel myself slowly but surely moving to the light and warmth of recovery and strength to carry on, at least for one more day. I say that because sometimes it works straight away but sometimes it takes a little longer but the thing to remember is that you should never give up on it or on the power within you to recover from anything.

The contents of the box, the tools are totally yours and yours alone, they may seem like rubbish to others but to you they are and will be priceless. Stones, crystals, shells, photos, drawings and anything else that you can look at and hold onto.

What makes them precious is that each and every one of them is a memento, a memory of those times and places when you were happy, really happy and free from your demons. As I hold each item one by one my mind forgets the horrors I have endured and instead drifts back to those happy moments like this piece of stone that I picked from the road near the volcano in Lanzarote. Then I pick up a piece of paper that’s filled with the beauty of my free reigning thoughts when I left my mind drift as I described in my last piece. God that must have been twenty years ago but as I hold it now I feel like it was only yesterday.

Then I pick up a drawing my son gave me when he was three, he’s thirteen now but again I remember every detail of that moment in time and how happy I felt back then and again another chunk of my darkness melts away.

There are things that I put into my Toolbox all the time and there are things that I remove as I move forward through my life. What you put into your Toolbox is totally your decision to make and yours alone and as I said there will be times when just knowing that your Toolbox is there will be enough to keep you safe but there also may be times when you spend days going through it and it’s items but please trust yourself to know that you can make it through the darkest days so please never give up, never give up on the power you have within you to reach out of the darkness towards the light via the small trinkets and mementos of the happy times you’ve had in your life. Those trinkets will always be there to remind you how beautiful and unique a person you are and not what you have been through.

Now it’s time for me to go back to my Toolbox in my attempt to reach out to the light of recovery.

Stay safe and well


"The ruthless honesty of Mr. Bennett means that this is not a story with a sentimental and unambiguously happy ending. He is still on a journey that is sometimes difficult and painful, but he has shown remarkable courage, integrity and honesty and done the community a service by writing this extraordinary and valuable book."

February 13, 2018

“The” Two Most Effective Tools to Aid Your Recovery from Abuse

This week, we continue our series with Patrick Bennett, who shares about the two most important tools that help him leave the pain of the past behind him.


The seaside village that was the centre of my childhood sits in the middle of the beautiful and rugged “Hook Peninsula” in county Wexford, Ireland and at its tip where the Atlantic meets the Irish sea sits the world famous “Hook Lighthouse”. 

Its beauty as far as the “Tourism blurb” promised a different beach every day for a fortnights vacation but, for the “Locals” who knew better -- it has so many,
many more. 

For me, its ultimate beauty was to be found laying on the cushioned fluffy grass beneath the lighthouse late at night and early morning and losing myself in the beams of light cutting through the heavenly blanket of stars and planets that lit up the night sky to a never-ending heartbeat of the oceans waves as they pounded the rocks and shoreline.

It was there that I discovered “The” two most important tools that proved so valuable and influential on my road to becoming more than just a survivor, to being me again! 

For so many years the beauty of the area was taken from me as there was literally not one place there that didn’t stir up memories, feelings, terrors of the horrific things that I and so many more of my friends were subjected to as young teenagers and so  I stayed away from the place, my friends, my family, forever running away from those same thoughts and feelings or at least trying to run away for over ten years only getting the courage, the overriding craving for just one night beneath that light house and cuddle myself up into the blanket of stars above on a handful of occasions when I was sure that I would be alone.

As I lay there thinking, reminiscing about times and friends long gone, I would inevitably bring to mind the horrors of my past but slowly and I don’t know why or from where, I began to let my mind and thoughts run free, to think about everything and nothing at all, just me, the grass, the ocean and the stars, nothing else really mattered which led me to realize that the hardest thing I was running from was not some demon, it was me. 

I was the one giving the power to my thoughts and my greatest fears, so I returned to my car and eventually I found the two most important tools I could ever dream of, a pencil and a piece of paper before returning to my blanket from heaven, let my mind drift away and started to write,
yes, write nothing more. 

After all the counselling, psychiatric treatments and medications, police and lawyers, it all came down to that realization that these two everyday items would prove to be so valuable and powerful.

With these two things and giving yourself the gift if even for a few minutes to let your mind go free and your thoughts drift away you can and will begin the greatest journey towards healing and recovery. Yes I know it won't be as easy as I say straight away and there will be times when things come up for you that cause great pain and suffering but trust me, I’ve been there and I know what that feels like, but if you stick with it you will amaze yourself at where your thoughts go and because you’ve written it all down you will be able to look back in years to come and be pleasantly surprised at the power you have within.

Personally I find it easier by the sea or a rippling stream as when, as I often do, I have bad experiences, I can just let them flow away in the flowing water but if that is not an option for you try finding some place that you feel safe, feel that you can just be yourself and allow your heart, body, mind and soul to breathe deeply, relax and drift away even if, as I say, its only for a minute or two but as you continue you will be pleasantly surprised how often and more readily these moments of freedom begin to appear.

So, when you have found your place of peace, settle down in whatever position is most comfortable for you, close your eyes and just breathe, slowly, gently and deeply for as long as you feel you need to be totally relaxed. Try to focus on absolutely nothing, just let your mind and thoughts drift away to where ever it wants to go and yes in the beginning this may mean visiting places you don’t particularly want to but go there anyway, don’t try to think about anything or anyone just drift away. 

Now instead of focusing on the darkness try to focus on what is going on around it, after all it’s not the place that hurt you, it was or is a person in a moment of time and like every moment of time, they pass in a fleeting second, the important thing is what that moment contains. 

What was the weather like? Was it sunny? If so how did the sun feel on your skin? Was it raining? If so describe the sound of the raindrops on the window? Was there a butterfly flying by? An apple pie baking in the oven? Describe how it smelt, its taste? Anything and everything that drifts into your thoughts, your mind, write them down, don’t worry about categorizing them or putting them in order, that can be done later. Just relax and remember you are free, free to remember and think about what you want and not what someone else wants you to. Its your power, take it back and never let it go. Just relax and breathe.

You see I look at it this way, yes bad things happen, happened to me but in the midst of that torture, that pain there was beauty and wonder all around me, from the oceans waves to the single butterfly or that apple pie, they are all things I missed because of my focus on what happened, but they were there all the same no matter how black the darkness may be. But always remember to write it down, every single thought or feeling, good or bad and when you are finished for that day store them away for awhile before going back to them and then noting anything new that may have come up again no matter be they good or bad things that you had forgotten, even the smallest detail which is the hidden gift in the midst of all of this as you can then empower yourself even further by presenting this new information to your counselor which will help your recovery even more and even to police or lawyers if you are in the process of seeking justice or bringing criminal charges.

Finally. Never stop writing, carry a small notepad and pen with you no matter how strange that may feel as you never know when something will crop up or you get an urge to write and over time you may as I do find yourself writing poetry, short stories or even your autobiography but that’s on your road to recovery and your choice to make because you will now have taken at least that piece of your power back and at the very least you will have a repertoire of happy memories and stories to tell instead of the darkkness

Stay safe and well,


"The ruthless honesty of Mr. Bennett means that this is not a story with a sentimental and unambiguously happy ending. He is still on a journey that is sometimes difficult and painful, but he has shown remarkable courage, integrity and honesty and done the community a service by writing this extraordinary and valuable book."

February 4, 2018

When Hindsight Isn't 20/20

This month, Patrick Bennett, author and survivor of abuse at the hands of a priest, will be sharing his story and exploring the journey he has been on towards healing. In this post, Patrick describes the three distinct groups of people impacted by the heinous abuse committed by Father Sean Fortune.


Winter's setting sun pierces my eyes forcing me to close my blinds on the world. Safe once again from the judgmental eyes and screaming body language of those I encountered throughout my day. As I do this, my own eyes open wider, gifting me the chance to look into my soul, the deepest, darkest abyss of my shredded life clinging soul. Allowing me the added chance to look into its damage, its pain, its memories.

When that insatiable Satan like priest turned child rapist found himself cornered and with nowhere to hide, nowhere to run and took his own rancid life he was facing 66 charges of child rape and molestation. If truth be known both those that then found the courage to also come forward and those who sadly could not and those who sadly could not take anymore and ended their own lives down through the years, I really believe the figure would be closer to a number that suited him more, that number being 666.

That may seem an imagination gone wild or indeed a convenient coping mechanism of my deeply damaged mind -- sadly it is not and is so, so real. But if only it were as simple as that, if only I could gather together all those innocent little boys that he preyed on and say to you now, look, here is the list of names that he savaged and yet survived, a list of the little boys that will forever have to battle in life, battle to survive the pain, physical and emotional, the demon within and here is a separate list of those who so sadly lost their battles over the years. But I can’t do that, its just not that simple when I look back into my soul.

Before I go on, I must make it clear to you that I fully respect and in no way, am judgmental or in any way critical of any of those who may, or may not feel they are included in the depths of my deepest thoughts and/or memories of what they were a part of and in several cases I was and still am close friends with to this day.

In my autobiography "Taking Back My Soul" I describe how I was confronted by a member of my own extended family shortly after my court case had been settled. During that confrontation and sadly on many, many occasions since by various people whom I really fear either don’t know the extent of the hurt and pain they are causing or are trying to hide their own pain or guilt by asking that sickening question "Why are you so down, so depressed? Yes, ok we get it, you were abused and raped, but didn’t you get well compensated for it? Didn’t you get 250,000 reasons to get over it and get on with your life?"

That’s what got me thinking as I do, got me looking back, seeing things more clearly and when I speak to, think or read about "All" those who were abused, raped, savaged by that demon disguised as a priest it got me thinking, grouping them in a way that would to many be so unbelievable, so depraved but is totally clear now.

Firstly, and with all the love and respect I have, I group those poor, sweet, innocent young lads who just couldn’t fight it anymore, couldn’t take it and sadly took their own lives in a seemingly never-ending list. Then I start thinking about all those I know personally who were his victims and "Survived" for want of a better word, and it is through talking to some of them about what happened to them and others myself included all those years ago, I find more and more that in fact it is not simply a case of there being two groups of victims, those who "Survived" and those who sadly didn’t. In fact, there are actually "Three" distinct groups of his victims.

Let me explain, at that time and forever since people ask why nobody said anything, nobody stopped him, and to a large extent that is true but yet again in hindsight we did say things about him, we did tell but like myself we suffered immensely for it both at the hands of those we told and to a worse extent by him. But we didn’t just tell others verbally, we told everyone by our actions and state of mind for our age and its that way of thinking that leaves me with the scenario of there actually being three distinct groups of Victims of Father Sean Fortune.

Father Fortune was a monster, an insatiable Satan like child rapist who would rape and abuse as many innocent kids in the most horrific way when, where and as often as he wanted, and I really do mean as often as he wanted and usually that would mean at least three or four times a day, every day for countless years. He would see someone he wanted and pounce with absolutely no fear or exception. Sadly, that is the group I and so many of my dear friends both living, and dead belong to. I can only describe it as us being nothing more than pieces of meat, there for no other reason than his pleasure or latest depraved fantasy for as long or often as he wanted.

But then there was the other side of Father Fortune, the soft, kind, gentle side, the side who would be involved in anything and everything whether wanted or not in a tiny Irish village of the 1980s and on so many occasions became an integral part of families in what ever area he was hunting in. He would worm his way into families, gain their trust by being the kind of priest anyone could hope to have as a family friend. Parents and their kids and these people would not have a bad word said about him and in a lot of cases still don’t. To them he was truly a man of God, holy and pious and such a gem to have in their community.

But this was in fact just a game that ended up with him gaining enough trust and respect of these families that they would encourage their young sons to spend time with him. Be so proud to accept his invitation for them to spend weekends and sometimes longer as his guest in his house. To a large extent these young lads were treated like princes during their visits to his house, at least to the outside public, they were paraded around with him for all to see. It was as if he was acting like they were in a relationship, they were his favourites and he was so gentle, caring and kind to them. Yes, they suffered untold horrors in the privacy of his home but to us back then and in a very surreal way it was if he were or wanted to be in a loving relationship with them as we know it these days. Never the less as I look back my hindsight can only allow me to group these poor lads in the second group of his victims.

That leaves me with the third and final group, the group that should turn my stomach, should disgust me but when I think of them both as they are today and were back then all I can do is pity them, really, really pity them. These young lads knew exactly what Father Fortune was like and what he was capable of, yet they knowingly put themselves directly in his line of vision and madness but with one huge exception and for want of a better expression "Held him over a barrel". Yes, they were all subjected to the same horrific fate as all the rest of us, but when he was finished with them they controlled him with threats of exposure and made him pay and pay dearly for both their "Service and Silence" to quote one of my friends who belongs to this group. From stereos to motorbikes to cold hard cash they got it all and at the time felt no guilt nor regret. From speaking with some of those lads that I still consider good friends, I now understand that although they knew that Father Fortune was abusing and raping everyone and anyone he wanted, they all thought that because they were controlling and dare I say blackmailing him that everyone was, and it is that thought that effects most of those lads today.

So, there it is, "Three" distinct groups, all victims of a depraved monster but yet and in hindsight clearly 30/30/30 vision! 

Read Part 2: “The” Two Most Effective Tools to Aid Your Recovery from Abuse


"The ruthless honesty of Mr. Bennett means that this is not a story with a sentimental and unambiguously happy ending. He is still on a journey that is sometimes difficult and painful, but he has shown remarkable courage, integrity and honesty and done the community a service by writing this extraordinary and valuable book."

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