Therese J Borchard (Beyond Blue) – Depression: It’s Spiritually Incorrect

I know I’m always blathering on about mental illness in relation to the church but this issue needs addressing again and again and as loudly as possible; in fact, shouted from the church spire.

Therese J Borchard (Beyond Blue) over on Beliefnet has written on this topic and does so forcefully, articulately and succinctly, and this should be read by ALL Christians in my opinion:

Here’s a taster:


And then, even more dangerous (in my opinion), I have intelligent, theologically-trained pastors, priests, and ministers of every denomination advising me that God alone is what I need–that if I read the Word, and lay my head on Jesus, then I can stop seeing both my psychiatrist and therapist.

Because prayer alone will be enough heal me.

In the face of such ignorance I say this, a prayer a priest friend recently taught me: “Jesus, save me from your followers.” (Or, my secular version: “I’m sorry. My fault. I forgot you were an idiot.”)

If I sound angry, it’s for a good reason. These attitudes not only perpetuate the stigma of mental illness–they worsen the depression of millions of people around the globe because, in addition to their other symptoms, the depressives now feel responsible and guilty for having brought on the pain themselves. And in trying to overcome it by themselves (with the help of their prayer beads), they stay stuck in the Black Hole, or resort to suicide.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that religious leaders who are uninformed about mental health are plentiful.

Back when I was a sophomore in college, a priest preached in his homily that “the world needs God, not Valium, and that the place to go with problems is the confessional, not a psychologist’s office.” I stood up and walked out. Every now and then I’ll hear a variation of it, and I’m tempted again to walk out again (but with kids, that’s not so easy).

In the psych ward–where I thought I was free of judgmental, evangelical lunatics–I was accosted by an ignorant pastor. After the chapel service, where we read psalms and sang “Amazing Grace,” he told me to stay put (because I couldn’t stop crying?).

Pointing his holy finger at me he said, “Honey, all you need is the Word. I was right where you are. I was down and out too, and then I picked up the Bible and God cured me. Praise the Lord! All you have to do is believe.” I was so doped up on sedatives at the time that I don’t remember what I said to him, but I don’t think it was nice.

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And please do take the time to hop over and read it all.

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5 Responses to “Therese J Borchard (Beyond Blue) – Depression: It’s Spiritually Incorrect”

  1. Nancy Wallace Says:

    I suppose there is something in human nature that longs for the instant quick-fix, someone to “kiss it all better”, a miracle on demand. Isn’t that why many followed Jesus? And Jesus warned against going after him to see a miraculous sign? I find it truly shocking that ignorance about mental illness is still so prevalent – and yes I have seen what damage Christians can do as a result of this. Thank you for this link.

  2. webmaster Says:

    Yes, you bring up an interesting point regarding miracles Nancy.

    The funny thing is I wouldn’t want to deny the possibility of supernatural intervention; I certainly don’t see this as beyond the remit of God, but it’s when folk proclaim they have God on a piece of string. Simply follow this formula and wham, a miracle occurs. That’s the danger. It’s presumptuous and also lethal when the miracle doesn’t occur, because it then becomes the sufferer’s own fault as a lack of faith.

  3. Ben Trovato Says:

    You will find very few people – even at the nutty fringes of Christianity – who would argue: ‘Cancer? What you need is the Bible! I had that, and it worked for me…’ Or ‘Broken leg? Never mind the splint, plaster or crutches: Believe! and all will be fine!’ Yet the analogy with mental illness is perfect.

    I suspect the problem is that people simply don’t understand the difference between genuine mental illness, depression etc, and a mild New Year’s blues, when good hard work, or good hard meditation may well be the best cure.

  4. webmaster Says:

    I suspect the problem is that people simply don’t understand the difference between genuine mental illness, depression etc, and a mild New Year’s blues, when good hard work, or good hard meditation may well be the best cure.

    Absolutely bang on as usual.

  5. Goy Says:

    “Therese J Borchard (Beyond Blue) – Depression: It’s Spiritually Incorrect”

    There is another take on Therese’s story which highlights a corruption of the christian message for political ends (take note Iain Duncan Smith), replace Therese’s depression with economic depression (poverty), replace medication with state subsistence welfare (commonwealth) etc.

    Beyond blue ‘christian’ conservatives both in the U.K. and U.S. are appropriating christian charity and providence (political Big Society) as the miracle cure and intercession for economic depression (poverty).

    The destruction of the medication (state subsistence welfare) and its replacement with the likes of faith based foodbanks (charity and providence) will have the same outcome a total breakdown of society and a discrediting of christianity.

    Interesting that beyond blue ‘christian’ juche-conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are in someways advocating self-reliant (juche) communism – Big Society.

    The outcome will be the same – destitution and dispossession for millions of their compatriots.

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