Even as I write a blog about Christians learning how to minister to people with mental illness, I am faced with a dilemma of my own about how to respond to someone who is suffering.
I argue that mental illness is just as physiological as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, and yet it is so vastly different and can be so difficult to navigate. It is often much easier to know how to handle a purely physical ailment, but that is not always the case with a brain disease. I know a woman who clearly has serious mental health problems, and I don’t think anyone in her church would argue against that. A life of childhood neglect and abuse has also left her deeply wounded and troubled. Her kind and giving spirit at first helped to build a team of support, but now that team is falling apart.
People are just people, whether they’re sick or not. Mentally ill people make good choices and bad choices just like healthy people do (when they’re in the right state to do so), and this woman has made bad choice after bad choice, and it has been maddening for the people who care about her. At times, she has used her problems as an excuse not to do some very important things, and she has used others’ compassion to get out of taking care of herself when she was well enough to do so.
What do you do?
Taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves is the church’s job. Enabling people and helping people to remain stuck is another matter, and it doesn’t help anyone. If someone is capable of standing on their own, we should help them do so. At some point, though, if you’re only being used and manipulated, you have to back off…for your own sake, and for the sake of that person. But how do you know when someone genuinely needs help again? Users and abusers cry wolf so often, people start to tune out, and that’s what happened to this acquaintance of mine.
This person came …
I want to hear your stories.
If you’ve been hurt by other Christians and/or churches that didn’t respond well to your mental illness, tell me about it.
If you were helped, loved, and supported by a church or ministry, I want to hear that, too. I want the good AND the bad.
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Depression is a huge lie from the devil.
That’s right – I believe in modern medicine, but I also believe in the enemy of the Bible, and there is nothing he loves more than making people miserable. It’s his job. He’s like a supernatural IRS agent. (Joking about that part, of course.) That concept is the foundation of the MYTH that mental illness does not exist.
It makes perfect sense, when you think about it, in spiritual terms. If Satan is the author of every bad and evil thing in the world, then you can see why so many Christians believe that mental illness is nothing more than fallout from sin. If we were closer to God/read the Bible more/were more active in church/doubted less, we wouldn’t be so unhappy. And, honestly, I’m not sure those people are wrong in every case.
Distance from God never results in something positive.
If we don’t get to know the words between the covers of our Bibles, we’ll never really get to know Christ.
A lack of faith can lead to a sense of hopelessness and a lack of God-confidence to tackle major problems in our lives.
We need fellowship with other believers to worship together, support each other, and lift each other up in prayer.
So, yes, NOT doing those things can make you depressed. I have never questioned that. It has never been the issue for me. But there’s clinical depression and situational depression, and the two get confused a lot. The best example I can think of is diabetes (you’ll probably see me coming back to this example a lot.) There are two types. Actually, supposedly there are 3 types now, but for the sake of this exercise we’ll focus on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Someone with Type 1 diabetes (me) have sort of hyperactive immune system that kill off the cells that make the hormone insulin, which regulates glucose. Without insulin, the body can’t absorb sugar to produce energy. Hence, someone with Type 1 diabetes requires insulin in order to live.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t …
In case you missed it, country star Mindy McCready was found dead over the weekend at the age of 37, the victim of an apparent suicide.
Best-selling relationship author Shaunti Feldhahn is a dear friend and sometimes-boss of mine. If your marriage is struggling, or you just want to make it even better than it already is, I highly suggest you read For Women Only and For Men Only. God used For Women Only to save my marriage many years ago. Both books are set to be re-released next month with additional and updated information.
I subscribe to her e-mail list, and this was today’s message. When a wife has depression, the husband can easily feel like he is lost, lonely, and clueless as to what to do. I’m very blessed to have a great husband, but he hasn’t always known how to cope with my depression. Here, Shaunti offers some practical advice on surviving that rocky road, and helping your wife get through her sadness.
In my introductory blog, I touched on a few of the reasons why mental illness is such a hot potato issue for so many Christians, and why people suffering from mental illness often prefer to hide their illness versus seeking help from their church. I found this to be a very interesting article because it shows that it doesn’t matter what kind of church you go to, the stigma still follows you.
According to Deseret News, a 2011 Baylor University survey of 6,000 people from 24 churches found that 27 percent of families had some form of mental illness in them. Those 24 churches were comprised of four different Protestant denominations. The families coping with mental illness with twice the financial difficulties, family, and work struggles as the “healthy” ones. Sadly, while the 27 percent said that getting mental health assistance was important to them, their fellow churchgoers barely seemed to care. Said Dr. Mark Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor:
“The data give the impression that mental illness, while prevalent within a congregation, is also nearly invisible.”
Greetings, fellow sojourners!
I can’t tell you how psyched I am to be blogging at PsychCentral. It’s great to find a place to address issues of mental illness and faith among such a diverse crowd. Let me share a little bit about why I’m writing this blog.
I have a mental illness.
I believe I have suffered from bipolar disorder most of my life, though I didn’t receive an official diagnosis until 2003, when I was 24 years old. By that point, my young marriage was failing, I couldn’t hold a job, I was drinking too much, and I finally realized I wasn’t going to “grow” out of my problems. I had everything to lose, so I sought help. It took several years and several combinations of meds, but I am now a relatively stable person. I say “relatively” because I don’t have it all together, but I’m grateful that I’m not completely falling apart, either.
So many turn to faith and their religion when beset by mental illness. Sometimes, though, it’s not faith that fails us, but the people who are our fellow believers. There are still too many who have misconceptions about mental illness, and what it means to have it.
That’s why I’m proud to welcome Julie Fidler and her blog, Amazed by Grace, which will be a blog about faith and mental illness, namely bipolar disorder and depression.
Julie’s writing a new book about this very issue: “The idea for the new book was inspired by the many negative and judgmental reactions I got from my fellow church members and other Christians. Many believers mean well, but [...] they too often believe that mental illness is little more than a personality flaw or spiritual weakness.”
“Through this blog and my book, I’m working to help people of faith to understand that the brain is an organ just like the heart, the lung, the kidneys, etc., and sometimes organs fail and get sick. My goal is to do this with solid facts, my own story and the stories of others who have been pushed away by the church, and with a sense of humor because, let’s be honest, such a serious topic deserves a little irreverence once in a while to make it easier to deal with.
“Too many God-fearing people are suffering in silence because they are afraid of being rejected and judged. They need to know they are in good company.”
Please give Julie a warm Psych Central welcome!