Why Christians Need to Stop Stigmatizing Mental Illness
I want to preface this post by saying that I am Christian. I was born into a Christian home. When I became an adult I came to a place where I chose to have a Christian home. I raise my kids to pray and “take it to Jesus.” I believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God cares and listens.
But I have heard many people say, “I had panic attacks as a teenager,” “My depression started around 15,” “The first time I had suicidal thoughts I was 12.” Do you know what all these statements are often followed by? “But I didn’t get any help because my parents were religious and thought I could pray it away.” “I couldn’t take medication because the church was against it.” “I could only see a pastor for counseling because the church thought therapy was wrong.” “Mental illness was seen as demonic or satanic and I just needed to get right with God.”
The church is changing its views on mental illness, but still has a long way to go. I think religion and religious people have hurt mental illness greatly in this country. We have to drop the religious stigma and just love others like we are called to do. We are great at waving our Bibles and pointing out the sins of everyone else, but when was the last time you comforted someone who was struggling? It’s easy to say what is a sin and make a list of rules, but it is way different to love those who do not act or believe like you do.
The stigma has to go. We have to get our kids help! If they are struggling with anxiety or depression by all means take them to talk to someone who can help them. If they need medication, then get it for them. I am not a “pill pusher” by any means. I do most things with natural medicine. I do take an antidepressant. It has been a lifesaver for me. I went from major post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, eight to 10 panic attacks a week, to one panic attack a month and being able to leave my house.
There really isn’t a precedent for mental illness in the Bible. Therefore, many translate that to mean you just aren’t right with God. It is so not true! God doesn’t address cancer, heart attacks or other diseases (except leprosy) either. Maybe, just maybe, God wants us to use the common sense He gave us to seek help for illness. Luke, one of the 12 disciples was a doctor. A man Jesus held in high esteem. God wants us to get help, and see freedom. Should we pray? Yes! But I am not going to pray and refuse treatment for a physical illness, I and won’t do it for PTSD either.
It breaks my heart knowing that life could have been so different for so many people had the Church just loved others and dropped the stigma. How many people could benefit from us putting an arm around them and saying “I know you’re hurting.” It is OK to not be OK sometimes, and it is OK to talk to someone. Let’s start supporting one another. Let’s get off our high horses and see the hurt that others carry. The hurt they feel makes them invisible. Let’s just help others, because that is what Jesus did.
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Getty image via Halfpoint