Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Rob Waller answers four questions from the Church on mental illness

Christian consultant psychiatrist Dr Rob Waller has written an interesting article on the topic of mental illness entitled: Questions from Churches. He begins:

Talking about mental and emotional health problems is a common topic for today. The church’s perspective on this (you could argue like many other church perspectives!) can seem at odds with current secular thinking. There are times when the church needs to be distinctive – especially when it thinks it is right and society is wrong. However there are also times when we need to press the refresh button on what we believe – especially where our beliefs are merely sub-cultural as opposed to doctrinal, and where our views add unnecessarily to the church’s reputation for being out of touch.

In this article, I respond to four questions I have been asked by an old friend of mine who attends your church. To make this a punchy article, I have been quite provocative at times – the aim is to stimulate thought…

The questions tackled from an old friend attending your church are:

1. Are severe mental illnesses the result of the impact of the Fall and the ongoing frustration and bondage that creation is experiencing?

2. How do you as a consultant psychiatrist (a real professional) and a believer (born again disciple of Jesus) communicate the Bible’s meta-narrative regarding both the diagnoses and the source / process of healing for those who come to you for help?

3. How can the local church live out the freedom of God when many within it struggle with their mental health, and how can it communicate the love of God to those who do not believe?

4. If mental health problems are a fact of living in the ‘now but not yet’ of the Kingdom of God, how can we find a balance between letting the ‘professionals’ deal with it and seeking healing / driving out demons – daring to believe that God can bring transformation?

I think my favourite quote from the article is:

So when we think about people who struggle, we need to see this as normal too. We can look at those who ‘struggle with mental illness’ and try to ‘set them free’, but I have yet to meet a person who is truly free (apart from Jesus of course). When we subdivide the church into the ill and the sane, we increase the struggle as well as set an impossible goal. If we were all more open about the ‘Pilgrims Progress’ of our own internal worlds, perhaps those who struggle with their mental health would not feel so useless. If sinners are allowed to lead churches, perhaps we should allow the depressed to lead us in worship. In fact, I know a few well-known worship leaders who are…

Indeed.

Well worth reading the article in its entirety.

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2 Responses to “Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Rob Waller answers four questions from the Church on mental illness”

  1. Simian Says:

    I too am always interested to read new insights into the nature of mental health. I think it’s quite unusual to find a psychiatrist who is also a devout Christian. But I find this article a little confusing. To take a few quotes from the piece:

    “So like many things in life, severe mental illness comes from a combination of sin, folly, choice, the actions of others and that complicated dilemma of happenstance vs destiny.”

    “I hold a position between predestination and free will…”

    “The ‘causes’ of mental distress are far more likely to be abuse by others or a genetic predisposition to illness.” [...than demon possession]

    When considering alternative and arguably mutually exclusive ideas Rob Waller frequently says he agrees with both. All things to all people?

    So I’m really none the wiser!

  2. kika Says:

    I am constantly surprised that mental illness always seems to come under the de humanising tag of’ demonisation’ whether it be from the fall or through genetics, sin (especially lifestyle sin such as drug use ) or abuse by others as in certain enviromental factors or biochemical reasons of a developmental nature in utero or enzymes that can not be processed in the body or a mixture of all these reasons or perhaps none or more then are listed?

    All babies these days when born are tested for PKU in their heels which if shows a positive result means those babies are not able to process protein and if they were to do so in normal amounts could suffer with brain impairment/damage. Would that be seen the same way?

    When will we start to see people with mental ill health as people and full human beings not as a sub division of the species? Yes..a harsh sentence.I by the way do suffer with mental ill health.

    We have such feeling of sadness and compassion for the elderly who suffer with Althzeimas (relatively speaking) in comparison to the young lives of those suffering with metnal ill health.

    Why do we need to blame and shame the metnally ill? To find fault it almost seems like it at times.
    The church in my opinion needs to stop categorising spirituality into divisions of wothiness and unworthiness as this leads to the blame game and that deos not help anyone whatever their problems may be.

    The first and most important characteristic of God was his LOVE. We cannot call ourselves christians without understanding that Jesus loved us while we were still dead in our tresspasses… that is all of us without exception.
    Please realise the complexities of the diseases and speak and act with compassion. If the fault line was found would it make a difference to your behaviour towards that sufferer? I congratualate the Mind and Soul team for their efforts to start a debate and raise awareness.

    We all want to be completely free in the love of Jesus Christ however we have sinned in the past or may do in the future. We all want to be met where we are without pre conceived ideas.
    Food for thought.

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