Mental Health Misunderstanding in the Christian Church

Mental Health Misunderstanding in the Christian Church

Pray it away with enough faith you will be healed. Such things like this have been preached from the pulpits and whispered in prayer meetings. The church must stop doing this. It only harms the person struggling with Mental Health issues. God has the power to heal, but that does not mean He must heal everyone the same way all the time. There is not a formula for healing and God is not a genie in a bottle. There are no magic words of prayer that will make heal us at our command. God is with those who struggle with mental illness every step of the way, walking with them as He expects His church to walk with those with mental illness too.

“It’s best not to talk about mental illness.” There are topics in life that seem to be taboo and mental illness is one of them. The church and many people in the world act as if mental illness will simply go away if we don’t pay attention to it, but oftentimes doing this will make the sufferer suicidal.

The burden of faith lies not in suffering but in the church, community called to surround those who suffer, sharing God’s love helping them walk through the dark places. Walking with someone struggling with mental illness makes all the difference in the world because it gives a caring voice to the brokenness one feels. The church is called to shine Christ’s light in the darkness of mental illness, a voice of hope in the darkness of those struggling with mental health.

All of us who say we believe in Christ Jesus are called to bear one another’s burdens, which means all burdens, even those we do not fully understand. Some feel people with mental health issues are unsafe, because we live in a culture of silence is bliss and we aren’t talking facts. The matter is that those who suffer from mental health issues are not more prone to violence than those who do not suffer. People with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violence. It’s a crisis of faith.

It is not true because mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or trauma from childhood. Regardless of the cause, even if it does not correlate with our faith, it is the church’s responsibility to act in a loving and caring way. As Christians, we are called to encourage those who have a mental illness, because the church must be a safe place to explore for someone who has a mental illness. The church should not be scared to address mental illness remaining silent, but pray on how to take action and pray that they have the faith to walk alongside those who are in darkness due to mental health issues.

About one and five adults struggle with mental illness and the connection between mental and the church is often broken as some shun those who suffer. Being believers manifesting glimpses of God’s kingdom, we must pursue those factored parts of the church and make them whole. We learn from history that people with mental health issues seek the church for answers, so will we be the church that gives those answers? We know faith and God can heal them or help them live in recovery day by day. Most pastors of Christian churches are not aware of the crisis of mental illness and have no idea how to help. We, as Christ’s body, are called to help those suffering, even the mentally Ill!

If we are true representatives of Christ, we must follow his example and reach out to those with mental illness. This is the very basic part of what it means to be a follower of Christ, but we seem to shun mental illness. Another serious gap in faith-based care depends on where one lives and the peer-support that is around. Hosting a peer support group at church would make one suffering from mental illness feel accepted. NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) has a faith-based addition that could help the church. We have often confused spiritual possession with abnormal brain activity that causes mental illness in the Christian church. We do not account for the fact that the brain can become dysfunctional, acting in ways we do not understand. We need to think of the brain as another organ in the body and it can wear down or act differently. As the church, we need to advance our thinking from outdated mythology and outdated superstitions.

The church needs to stop over-spiritualizing everything and treat people as people. There is a physical side of mental health we do not understand, but it is about time we make an effort to understand the complexity of mental illness. People in the church think that they can give some sort of spiritual advice to make mental illness go away. Do we really want to be promising them that God will heal their illness or discouraging them from receiving treatment when we’re not willing to take that risk with any other form of disease? God healed me to a certain extent but left me with some of my mental illness intact. I could ask why God did not heal me or accept God has a purpose in using my mental illness to help others. Historically we have had many misconceptions of mental illness in secular culture as well as a church culture.

Most Christians do not want to discuss the stigma of mental illness. People who are receiving mental-health treatment have spiritual needs, too, so a spiritual crisis often accompanies mental illness.

It’s critical to stick with those who are suffering from both, providing Christian care.

 

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Article is written by: Minister D. Labrecque, he is one of the Mentors, and Support Group Leader for our faith base and nonprofit group for mental awareness and faith.

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