Churches, we need a new approach to mental illness, or maybe not new, but a more Christlike approach to mental illness.ED STETZER
It can be hard to talk about. Hard to accept. Hard for some people to even acknowledge. As someone who suffers from mental illness, I know what it’s like to feel the stigma. To feel the hesitancy to bring the subject up because of not knowing how it will be received. To feel ashamed.
I’m starting a book called “Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About” by Ryan Casey Waller and it sounds like an interesting read.
“A pastor and licensed psychotherapist himself suffering from depression and anxiety takes on the relationship of mental health and faith while addressing the role of self-care, compassion, and restoration.
Everyone knows someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, or another form of mental illness, but a stigma around mental health remains–especially in the church. Ryan Casey Waller–pastor, therapist, and cosufferer–has experienced firsthand the jarring dissonance of wrestling with mental health while trying to maintain a vibrant Christian faith. It can be a discouraging, lonely battle. But it doesn’t have to be.
In this book, Waller emphasizes that mental health issues are not a symptom of a spiritual failing or insufficient faith; rather, suffering is the very thing our Savior seeks to heal as he leads us toward restoration. Combining practical theology, clinical insights, and deep compassion, Waller invites readers to see why we need conversations in the church about mental health and how to have them; discover why seeking knowledge about one’s self is critical to growing deeper in relationship with God; understand the basics of brain health, the intersection of biology and spirituality, and why emotional intelligence deserves more attention; learn practical steps such as how to find a therapist, distinguish between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and afford treatment; and become equipped to support loved ones with mental illness while promoting healthy self-care.”
Addressing our mental health is more complicated than addressing other aspects of our health, especially for Christians.Ryan Casey Waller
Mental Illness versus Physical Illness
One thing that has always always, ALWAYS bothered me was the acceptance of physical illness but not mental illness. Yes, with a physical illness, you can see what’s going on. You can see how a person’s physical illness makes them feel.
But what about those illnesses that can’t be seen? The ones that are crammed inside the brain. What about the person suffering from depression but is too scared to talk to anyone in the church about it because she fears being judged. Or being told “You don’t have enough faith. Just pray harder and it will go away.” (that “advice” infuriates me.)
Some of us battle mental illness like others of us battle our cholesterol.Ryan Casey Waller
There continues to be a high level of suspicion, distrust and even fear in the church when it comes to psychology and psychiatry.
“Mental illness is a sign of weakness”
“Your mental illness is punishment for your sin.”
“Just pray it away.”
Whether a person suffers from bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, anxiety, depression etc…the church must come together and help fight the end of the stigma surrounding the church.
For the stigma of mental illness to be broken, there must be direct, transparent speech from Christian leaders. We need more open dialogue in the church.
Its Not a Lack of Faith Issue
I have suffered from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for many years. I was told by someone once that my faith was not strong enough and that’s why I was suffering. I’ll never forget that.
But it’s not a faith issue. What if what I had was physical? Diabetes, or cancer? We don’t question those illnesses so why is mental illness any different? According to Ed Stetzer,
We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable’s lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions, but mental illness–that’s somehow seen as a lack of faith.
Mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It shouldn’t be treated any differently from a physical illness.
It’s called a mental illness for a reason….because it is an illness. Why can’t it be accepted like any other illness?
The church must stop being afraid of tackling the subject of mental illness. It exists. Simple as that.