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!!!