Christians and Mental Illness
by Richard Mansel
Her public demeanor exudes happiness and smiles. However, her private world, shrouded in darkness and dread, lays behind locked doors. She is terrified that her Christian family will discover her mental problems.
Her church had been there for her during her and her families’ surgeries and yet, she is afraid of what they might say about her secret problems.
She has heard some of them scoff at mental illness as evidence of a weak faith and a lack of toughness. She worries that maybe they are correct.
She tries to pray and read the Bible enough and yet nothing seems to help. Her worldly friends beg her to get help, but they do not understand. She struggles on.
Where did Christians get the idea that mental and emotional illnesses were a result of a lack of faith, weakness, laziness, or a sign of sin? How many Christians have we driven away from the Lord because of our heartless words and actions?
It is a travesty that we have created this environment of pain and fear!
Brethren are suffering in silence because they are frightened others will accuse them of weaknesses or worse. Either they clandestinely get help or they avoid it altogether.
When they need a support system the most, they find only silence and smirks. We will pray for people’s physical illnesses and surgeries, but we dare not mention mental illnesses.
Sometimes Christians go to visit people out of town while they are actually in a psychiatric facility. They fear reprisals if they admit the truth.
Why will we allow brethren to suffer from physical illnesses but not mental illnesses? This is like saying that a Christian can suffer from a painful right knee but if they admit that their left knee pains them, they have a weak faith.
Why are they told to, “Get over it?” Why is this not the answer to cancer or a brain tumor? Would we not fire a doctor who told a patient that they had cancer, but denied them treatment, telling them to “get over it?”
Mental and emotional illnesses are real, and we must begin acknowledging this very soon. We inherit problems and we have chemical imbalances that we just cannot get over or ignore. They are not our fault. We were born with them, yet, we must pretend they do not exist.
A friend’s doctor told him concerning his bipolar disorder, “You can no more will away a brain chemical imbalance than you can will away high blood pressure.”
“Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults —suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness. In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44.”
God does not have these prejudices. He knows and understands everything about us (Jeremiah 1:5; Matthew 10:30, et al). His arms are always open and ready to comfort, whether anyone else’s are or not. He never shuns us nor ridicules us for a medical condition.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:1,2).
We must create an environment where brethren feel safe to ask for prayers and to be who they are. However, when we bully them into denial and fear, we deny them the blessings of being in a church family.