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