Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 10th 2014 Contents A40
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, September 10, 2014
"Being a Christian doesn t make you
exempt from developing depression,
bipolar disorder, or any other serious
mental health condition--just as it does-
n t protect you from physical illness
such as cancer or heart disease."
So says www.christiandrugrehab.com
in encouraging mentally-ill believers to
seek psychiatric care, while reminding
us that, "Your pastor is certainly there
for you to offer support and spiritual
But what if your pastor doesn t know
how to be "there for you"? What if all
he acknowledges are the scriptures
expectation of us being joyful at all times
(1 Thessalonians 5:16) and uses that to
discount all other human feelings or
What if, finding it easier to do so, he
carelessly ignores your need rather than
embrace you with Christ s commanded
love and compassion? What if his best
effort at addressing the issue comes from
an uneducated platform?
And finally, what if the sum total of
his spiritual guidance is to present (or
misrepresent) the scriptures to encourage
(or humiliate) the mentally ill into a "bet-
ter attitude" or a "more spiritual" mind-
If you are diagnosed with mental ill-
ness, and you don t subscribe to the
practice of pretending all is well, you
may well discover that a church bent on
ignoring mental illness or shaming men-
tally-ill believers isn t the place for you.
You may face your deepest injustice
here, where unawareness prevails and
leaders are more comfortable knocking
what they do not understand. Here,
instead of the church demonstrating
empathy, it may expect that you d snap
out of whatever portends using scripture
promises and prayer.
I ve seen the church wrongly ascribe
misleading principles such as "weak
faith," to people troubled by recurring
mental illness. Since, after all "God is a
miracle-working God" (never mind they
haven t recorded one miraculous event
to their name). That attitude rooted in
unqualified ignorance, diminishes the
plight of the mentally-ill believer.
There is sufficient evidence that bio-
logical, environmental, and psychological
factors are among the valid causes of
mental illnesses. So, pastors who ascribe
sin, spiritual weakness, and a lack of
faith rather than accessing accurate infor-
mation to help already distressed believ-
ers, prove themselves incompetent.
The church that the Bible describes
is ideal. It caters to the broken, sad, and
hopeless of this world.
The one that teaches/preaches that
all believers are expected to always
show up "blessed," "healed," and
"highly favoured" is idealistic and
ill-equipped to treat with legitimate
diseases, as depression. And, in his
intolerance of a depressed believer,
I think he d be more comfortable if
you remained silent about your
mental illness--perpetuating the
"shame" existing throughout
The most daunting consequence
of some churches unsuitable
response to mental illnesses is pas-
toral prejudice, which the congre-
gation then accepts as "gospel."
But no amount of pulpit igno-
rance or bigotry would ever cause
me shame; no condemnatory mes-
sages would ever silence me; skewed
perceptions and narrow-minded-
ness would not cow me.
In fact, it raises my consternation
and increases my will to see those
in charge of "saving" people become
knowledgeable, adopt a Christ-like
attitude, and teach appropriate prin-
ciples on the issue of mental illnesses
Believing resolutely that "All
Scripture is God-breathed and is
useful for teaching, rebuking, cor-
recting and training in righteous-
ness," (2 Timothy 3:16), I encourage
the church to use the Bible whole-
somely to participate in holistic care
of people s body, mind, and soul.
Mental illnesses should not be stig-
To believers with mental illnesses,
here are my top pointers, which I
employ in the face of prejudice,
when others mistakenly or heart-
lessly regard me as "negative,"
"weak," or "lacking faith."
Accept treatment from profes-
sionals. As the pastor is to your
spirit/soul, and the cardiologist is
to your heart, so the mental health
professionals are God s way of sup-
porting you with specialist care of
the mind. Prayer, fasting, medica-
tion, therapy are all recommended
aspects of your treatment/coun-
selling all towards living a more
Know and declare the teachings
on joy. "Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, rejoice" (Philippians
4:4). God intends us to experience
joy, but depression and other health
conditions limits our expressions.
Do not feel guilty/defeated when
you are unable to rejoice. But, when
you can, "make a joyful noise"
Persevere. Remember, "As an
example of patience in the face of
suffering, take the prophets who
spoke in the name of the Lord. As
you know, we count as blessed those
who have persevered. You have
heard of Job s perseverance and have
seen what the Lord finally brought
about. The Lord is full of compas-
sion and mercy" (James 5:10-11).
Adhere steadfastly to your Christian
beliefs and to professional advice.
Don t ignore your spiritual serv-
ice. Dedicate more time to prayer
and Bible study. Give community
service or join a support network
to help meet the needs of others.
To be continued.
When churches shame, stigmatise the mentally ill
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
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