Mental Health in the Church part 1

Poor Mental Health is plaguing the church and Satan uses our relationship with God to discourage us from getting help.

I can’t tell you how many people I talk to that have told me they have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness (Bi-polar, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD) but are not getting the help that they need to treat it.

To be honest, I can relate.

For a long time, I knew I suffered from depression, but I refused to get help. I would use so many excuses as to why I didn’t need help. I would rationalize, justify, and spiritualize the problem away. I had so many different unhealthy ways of coping. I abused drugs, I slept all the time, I sought out sexual gratification, and worst of all relied on people to make me feel good about myself. I would try to white knuckle it and just fight through the depression and it was miserable, everything seemed so bleak, I felt like a fish trying to swim upstream, but there is hope. Here I am 2 years later having gotten consistent counseling and taking medication regularly, I now realize that there is hope for anyone who struggles with mental illness and feels that this is just the hand they were dealt, that this is “their cross to bear” or their “thorn.” God wants us to have a full life, he wants us to enjoy our time here on earth, and sometimes he uses people in the secular community (such as doctors and counselors) to help us achieve our potential.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10

However, we often get in the way of Gods blessings.

I am going to take some time to address some of the main reasons why I refused to get help for so long and the conclusions I came to about this and hopefully as you read my struggle, you may also find it helpful. This is a very vast topic so I will deal with each issue one post at a time. Here is the first main objection I used for not getting help:

1. If I go to get help, that means I just don’t have enough Faith.

This is something that reminds me of Satan tempting Jesus in the desert; Satan would use scriptures to derail Jesus. Satan would spiritualize away the sin. When it comes to mental illness, Satan is operating the same way. As the scripture says, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”, Satan doesn’t want you to get help. Satan wants to keep you in a place of discouragement, hopelessness, and despair so when you think about getting help, Satan is right there telling you the same thing he told Jesus:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”.
Matthew 4:5

He is attacking your spiritual pride. The pride that says, “I don’t need a therapist, I just need to pray more, read more, fellowship more.” These things are all true, but does that mean going to a counselor is sinful? Why can’t it be something you are doing in addition to all of those?

Consider the following Scripture:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
James 1:17

God gives everyone gifts, not just those who are Christians. They are given to psychiatrists and other professionals in the secular world. I will address the idea of taking medication later, for right now we are just talking about therapy. Therapy changed my life because it is a process of “undoing” a lot of the negative thought processes I had have built up over the years. My psychiatrist had a gift for really helping me question my thoughts about myself and about specific situations. God used her to help free me from the bondage of my mind. No amount of reading, praying, or fellowship could have done what counseling did for me. I will say it again, no amount of reading, praying, or fellowship could have done what counseling did for me. I have no problem saying that because it was God who led me to this psychiatrist and God who worked through her in my life. Imagine no one ever taught you the best way to do a push up so you spend your entire life doing push ups with the wrong form. This eventually leads to back problems, shoulders problems, and bad posture. When these problems are no longer bearable you would have to begin the process of physical therapy or going to a chiropractor. To not get help for mental illness is the same as this individual with chronic pain or even skeletal deformities due to years of incorrect form never going to a physical therapist or a chiropractor. Could they live out the rest of their life and get by with these issues? Sure, but their quality of life would be significantly diminished. God wants us to have an amazing life here, yet we refuse to see people who have extensive training and degrees in this area that are equipped to help you get better yet we have no problem seeing a chiropractor for back problems. After reading this, you might be asking yourself, how do I know if I need help? I think your conscience can answer this one for you, but in case you need more help identifying, I challenge you to ask 2-3 of the closest people in your life what they think. The Huffington post did an article called, “8 signs you should see a therapist” and they are:

1. Everything feels intense.
2. You’ve suffered Trauma and can’t stop thinking about it.
3. You have unexplained recurrent headaches, stomach-ache’s or run down immune system.
4. Your using a substance to cope.
5. Your getting bad feedback at work.
6. You feel disconnected from previously beloved activities.
7. Your relationships are strained.
8. Your friends have told you they are concerned.

That last one is the biggest one for me. If someone has the courage to really let you know they are concerned for you in regards to your mental health, that should not be taken lightly. No one wants to have that conversation with you, so if someone takes that step, it means something. Please thank them for being willing to speak up.

If you got to see a psychiatrist or counselor that is not Christian based, it is completely okay to let them know at your first appointment that your faith is very important to you and is non-negotiable. Any professional can handle you saying this. It’s possible they might recommend you to someone else, but at least you will know that your faith wont be attacked in an environment that should be very safe and comfortable. Make this clear at your first appointment.

Please see the two follow up posts Mental Health in the Church 2 and 3

Post by Patrick Genova