GO! See the Stigma of Mental Illness in Church!

Posted on November 5th, 2008 by Clinically Clueless

In a recent article entitled “Clergy often dismiss Mental Illness” by Psych Central, “More than 32 percent of Christians who approached their local church for help with a personal or family member’s mental illness were told by their clergy that they did not really have a mental illness.  I personally, think that the percentage is higher.

 

“They were told the cause of their problem was solely spiritual in nature — such as a personal sin, lack of faith or demonic involvement.“

 

This Southern Californian became very angry upon reading this article!!!

 

 

 

Part of my anger is due to my own abuse and the other is, as a Christian, I’m angry about the stigma that surrounds mental illness especially within the church which should be the very place to go for support and healing.

 

Now, I don’t want to turn anyone off to Christianity or this post. We all know there is stigma regarding mental illness everywhere and not just in the church (or other religions). I believe, it is even more difficult to have a mental illness if you are part of a church or organized religion. I’ve been a Christian for 28 years and was not raised in a Christian home. I am surprised that my faith is strong and that I’ve stayed with my church being that I have a mental illness and have been spiritually abused in a type of non-Christian cult situation.

 

From a very young age, I was told that “I was evil, shouldn’t have been born, was the devil’s spawn and was bloodied from a beating that was to “beat the devil out of me.” I was constantly told and things were done to me that meant “I had evil spirits in me.” Some of it was used to fulfill their evil purposes including sexual abuse. As a child, it made me feel like I was bad, didn’t deserve to live and that I was evil. Today, those words continue to run through my head.

 

The church is right when they say my problems have to do with evil…the evil that was done to me. I am not “blaming” my childhood on my difficulties. I take responsibility by taking my medication, going to psychotherapy with a Christian therapist, talking about the unspeakable, connecting with others, remaining in relationship with God and my church.  I am blessed with a church that is supportive in acceptance, prayer, meals etc.

 

I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, chronic post traumatic stress disorder, and others, but I have to leave some out to surprise you later. General responses from the church “surrender all to Jesus, all mental and physical illness is from the devil, pray more, you need to forgive, your faith isn’t strong enough.”

 

I think, some simply don’t know how to handle such issues, avoid it or they go into denial by hiding behind the right “Christian” response, “I gave it to God and He healed me. That should work for you too.” Arg!!!! One good comment encouraged me to continue sharing because a reader stated that I helped him to understand and to minister to others.

 

The world and the church are far from perfect and are made up of fallible everyday people with a variety of backgrounds. Most people are not knowledgeable or scared of mental illness because they don’t understand or misunderstand. Sometimes, when people are scared or don’t understand things, they simplify it like everything is good or evil; black or white.

 

In the church, I believe, this happens in their inability or even refusal to look at abortion, adultery, divorce, homosexuality and mental illness, as real issues that Christians face including possibly the person sitting next to them.  Some bitterly attack these issues and cause people not to talk about it in church. They do not want to accept reality that it exists even in the church. Christians go to prisons and accept murderers and evangelize.

 

So, I become angry at the responses to other individuals with problems that are just as real! Sometimes, I am embarrassed to be a Christian based on what some show the world.  Yes, it is hypocricy.  I wonder, where is the compassion, acceptance and love? 

 

My understanding of what God wants me to do is accept, love others and get to know others with compassion and not with judgment because we have all sinned and not all of these issues are sins of the person anyway.

 

I also believe that mental illness is a combination of things and is very complicated and may include demonic activity, but not always.

 

 

My purpose for blogging is for my own healing which means to speak the truth about my life and just to be real. Another purpose is to educate others about mental illness and try to breakdown the stigma and misconceptions whatever and wherever they may be.  I just want to plant different seeds everywhere I go, so that flowers of new ideas, perspectives and paradigms can grow.

 

After reading the article, I did not want people to misinterpret that this is what all Christians believe.  I also, wanted to point out that there are reasons for the false beliefs that are common to many people.  I just had to speak out.

 

 

What inspires you to GO! Smell the Flowers by speaking out?

 

Dig deep and truthfully share your feelings and thoughts about mental illness? 

 

What would be your thoughts and feelings if a friend or family member told you that they had a mental illness?

 

All comments welcomed!!!


15 Responses to “GO! See the Stigma of Mental Illness in Church!”

  1. Svasti says:

    Hey CC, I know you’re specifically addressing your experiences inside the Christian church, but much of what you say here can and does relate to the average Joe on the street. Pretty much anyone who has dealings with someone with a mental illness. So, even though I know some of your doctrine which is meant to mean there’s a great deal of compassion, I think people haven’t worked out how to just be a decent human being before they can work out what it is to be a decent Christian human being.

    These issues of awkwardness, discrimination, emotional blindness and so on… they are human issues. And I don’t know that just because a religion says you should act in certain ways… that people really do. At least not most of the people involved in religious groups.

    Its hard to be compassionate too, when you’re too busy being involved in your own suffering. And this is most people’s experience of life. They are too concerned with what they have/haven’t got to consider how anyone else is going.

    If my own family can’t give a toss how I’m faring, why would anyone else? Its human nature, the side of human nature that has not risen above its own self-centeredness yet. Not yet. :)

    Ofcourse, many of the people I’ve met online – like yourself – and others in RL do have a great deal of compassion and understanding. But more often than not, they are people who’ve been through their own rock-bottom/version of hell before they’ve come out the other side and started to overcome whatever they’ve been through.

    I don’t think its so much the content of what you’ve been through, rather whether or not you’ve come face to face with yourself in the ‘house of mirrors’ instead of your ‘house of cards’ – that’s what makes the difference between someone who can give a shit about other peoples’ suffering and those who can’t.

    Its not personal. Its time and learning.

    • Savasti~

      I agree with you. I thought I tried to connect it to the general population, but the church was the primary focus. Fighting the stigma must continue in all arenas. I was just so angry by this finding, but unfortunately not surprised. Fighting stigma about mental illness and misconceptions about the Christian church inspire me to really speak out.

      CC

  2. A/C says:

    I read your post earlier CC and I had to leave and come back, I was so ,angry by some of the statements that to post a comment would not have been right.. hmmm

    To think some people still live in medievil times with views this arcaic it makes me sick…. and infact it did…
    Personally I do beleive that mental illness needs to be treat as part of the whole person, the mind, the body and the spirit, because each one will aid in the health and happiness of person.
    You can treat a mental illness ,but what happens when the person spirit is broken, the body heals mostly, the mind learns new defenses, the brain can be treated… but unless all are treated together, one wont work fully..

    I dont have an issue with anyone with mental illness, in fact I have many friends with various,
    eg Bi polar, Anxiety, depressiom, panic attacks, PTSD (thats nasty) skizerphernia (however it is spelt) and others, we just acknowledge it, understand what is going on when episodes emerge, support and get on with it….
    A mental illness does Not define a person, its is a part of the person… and if you accept the person as a whole you must accept that part of them as well.. its the whole package or none at all.

    • AC~

      I agree with you and like you I had to wait a couple of days before I could actually read the article. I am angry and sad because that is not how the church should be…it presents the incorrect view.

      No, illness defines a person, but with mental illness you hear, “She is depressed.” However, you don’t hear, “She is cancer.” In my reports, I always wrote, “…is a X year old male/female who is diagnosed with depression, cancer…” Big difference and I hopefully was subltly making people think a little differently when they read the reports.

      Thank you for your insight. I appreciate it.

      CC

  3. Purple13 says:

    I hear that they’re trying to get an official pardon from the church for all the ‘witches’ they burnt at the stake all those years ago.

    C’mon church – how about it?

    • All over the the world, they did horrendous, torturous things to “witches,” How about you go ask for the pardon…and to whom everything is so fragmented in the church. But, you have my blessings and prayers for your endevour.

  4. mike says:

    Unfortunately some Christians equate being a Christian with having their brains sucked throuh their ears and pulped. Makes me sick. I think many become institutionalised and really believe they are doind the right thing in the kind of views and practices you mention CC – it’s kind of using God as an excuse to go nuts and take your hands of the wheel.

    Thankfully not all are like that.

    • MIKE!!!

      LOL!! I am not like that, but what you said is what the type of things that Christians do that sterotype them. I get angry, defensive and sad. People in general don’t want to dig deeper and really think. My mother says that I’ve always asked questions that no one can answer. My pastor and I get into theoretical discussions because the things I talk about are gray and not black and white issues as people would like the world to be. People mean well and some just can’t think deeper. I am finding it hard to find people that I can actually discuss things with. That is one of the reasons that GSTF is good.

      CC

  5. Lorna says:

    There are many forms of abuse in any religion. However, the belief that you don’t have enough faith is the reason you have depression of other forms illness. If religion admitted that prayer and faith does not heal all ills, then have to admit that God does not solve all problems. Which might cause you to leave the church, which might cause the income to decrease, which might casue the memebership to decline, which might put the pastor out of a job. Then how would we be able to think for ourselves.

    I spent many years being raised in “The Church” and raised my family in “The Church” The hurt and pain that religion has cause me and my family is never ending.

    It is my suggestion that “Pastors” NOT be aloud under law to do mental and emotional counseling.

  6. Real Talk says:

    great great post lorna!!

    over to the christians I think!!

  7. Cynthia says:

    HI,
    thanks for sharing this with me. I looked for the other web address for your prior article and was told in a message that it does not exist. I’ll keep trying though…maybe I can figure out what happened in the copy and paste process.

    You are right in saying that closemindedness and stereotypes appear everywhere and on every level…I guess we just (rightly so) expect more from the followers of Christ.

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