How many people do you know who struggle with mental illness but have been told by someone in the church that “depression isn’t real” or something like that? Perhaps you’ve encountered this type of scenario in your own experiences.
Well, this may come as a surprise, but the people in your church aren’t mental health experts. Health care professionals have made important strides in the field of mental health, and it’s important for the church to start to take it seriously.
Three mental health myths commonly found in the church
- Mental illness isn’t real — Heard this one before? Too many Christians, especially from older generations, proclaim that mental illness isn’t real. Depression and anxiety is made up, etc. It’s plausible that older generations have a hard time believing in mental illness because it wasn’t commonly studied or treated back in the day, but this doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. A quick read of any Hemingway novel can reveal that, yes, there were plenty of people who needed help but probably didn’t know it.
Mental illness is real. There are conditions that literally alter the chemicals in your brain, which affects how you feel, think and act. Some Christians have a problem with this because they think the mind is separate from the brain, but the science tells us otherwise. These conditions are real, and many are treatable just as a disease or an injury.
- You just need more faith — Frankly, this is a terrible thing to say to someone struggling with mental illness. They may have a lot of faith in God but find themselves struggling with depression due to some altered chemistry in their brains. The last thing they need is someone arrogant churchgoer to come along and tell them this is happening because they didn’t have enough faith.
Faith isn’t quantifiable. Brain chemistry is.
God won’t punish your mind because “you don’t have enough faith.”
- Medication means you don’t trust God — In a similar vein as the previous question, some people believe taking medications means you don’t trust God. But why? Many of the same types of people who say you shouldn’t take medication for mental illness have no problem taking medicine for pain, injuries or diseases.
Look, when it comes to treating mental illness, the fact is, you should trust and listen to your health care provider. A churchgoer, no matter how well intended they may be, has no reason or authority to suggest what is or is not good for your health.
Nowhere in the Bible does it teach us that medication is bad.
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