On January 24 I hosted a seminar on Mental Health and the Believer with the help and support of assemblyHUB. Approximately 80 people attended with a good mixture of those struggling with mental illness first hand and those wishing to learn more in order to understand better and help those of us who daily face the challenges that these illnesses present.
The feedback was very positive overall and here are a few of the comments we received.
This conference has hit home to me in many ways, and has explained many things going on with some family and friends.
Please hold more sessions. Loved the variety and choice of the panel. Great range of perspectives represented.
Thank you for breaking the silence regarding mental illness. This day has been a blessing to me.
One thing that was often noted in the feedback was that we did not have adequate time to consider the discussion questions after the presentations. Here are three questions and a few of my comments. I invite you to give your response to any of the questions as well.
If you missed the seminar and would like to hear the sessions presented, please visit the Mental Health Audio page and listen.
Why do we place a stigma on mental illness?
I think we tend to see mental illness as a combination of personality weakness, lack of spiritual strength, laziness, lack of self discipline and a mixture of other unknown and uncomfortable factors. The stigma is a way of pushing away those who make us uncomfortable. (Mental illness is only one of the many misunderstood issues that we tend to stigmatize.)
We can also be guilty of maintaining stigmas out of peer pressure. Even if we ourselves know it is wrong, we don’t speak up because we fear that then the stigma will be on us too.
Why is taking medication for mental illness considered wrong by so many?
There is a lot of misunderstanding of what the medication does. Most medications do not alter the mood of the individual. They restore the biological chemical imbalance in the brain that causes faulty thinking.
Some fear that medication is an attempt to deal with a spiritual problem by medical intervention. Medication will not resolve nor interfere with spiritual issues, but restored healthy thinking makes spiritual matters much easier to deal with. If people don’t see mental illness as a real illness then medication is seen as only diverting the attention to a “false” cause of the problem.
For the sake of clarity I want to say that I do not believe that medication is THE solution for treating all mental illness. For some illnesses it is essential while for others it can greatly relieve the physical aspect of the mental disorder. In some ways it is like pain relief; it is a great blessing but not a cure for the problem. Counselling , therapy, spiritual support and emotional healing are all important for the greatest recovery.
How do these perceptions affect the sufferer?
Most people with mental health challenges already feel very isolated and struggle with guilt and shame. As they observe the stigma that others face for the problems they themselves are dealing with, their loneliness is reinforced and their resolve grows to talk to no one about their struggle.
When other Christians express their belief that the problem is all spiritual and that they need to try harder to overcome it, the guilt and shame grow along with a deep sense of hopelessness.
I am deeply grateful for the scientific research and study that have gone into the production of medications to treat mental illness as well as other illnesses. I believe that we should take all of this medical help as from the hand of God.
He gave the ability to the men and women who develop these treatments. We are quick to embrace medication for all our other illnesses with gratitude. I for one would be much more limited in my life and ministry if it were not for medication that helps me think more clearly.