How Does Your Church See Mental Illness?

Going my way?
This should supply direction and dialogue on the issues faced by every church member. It is a great opportunity we have been given— to minister to every person in the Body of Christ. —Bryan
by Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press  —

Living with depression — or any other form of mental illness — is like viewing life “through a glass darkly,” according to Jessy Grondin, a student in Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. “It distorts how you see things.”

Like one in four Americans, Grondin wrestles with mental illness, having struggled with severe bouts of depression since her elementary-school days. Depression is one of the most common types of mental illness, along with bipolar disorder, another mood-altering malady. Other forms of mental illness include schizophrenia and disorders related to anxiety, eating, substance abuse and attention deficit/hyperactivity.

Like many Americans with mental illness, Grondin and her family looked to the church for help. And she found the response generally less-than-helpful. “When I was in the ninth grade and hospitalized for depression, only a couple of people even visited me, and that was kind of awkward. I guess they didn’t know what to say,” said Grondin, who grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Alabama.

Generally, most Christians she knew dealt with her mood disorder by ignoring it, she said. “It was just nonexistent, like it never happened,” she said. “They never acknowledged it.” When she was an adolescent, many church members just thought of her as a troublemaker, not a person dealing with an illness, she recalled.

A few who acknowledged her diagnosed mood disorder responded with comments Grondin still finds hurtful. “When dealing with people in the church … some see mental illness as a weakness — a sign you don’t have enough faith,” she said. “They said: ‘It’s a problem of the heart. You need to straighten things out with God.’ They make depression out to be a sin, because you don’t have the joy in your life a Christian is supposed to have.”

A Baylor University study revealed that among Christians who approached their local church for help in response to a personal or family member’s diagnosed mental illness, more than 30 percent were told by a minister that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness. And 57 percent of the Christians who were told by a minister that they were not mentally ill quit taking their medication.

That troubles neuroscientist Matthew Stanford. “It’s not a sin to be sick,” he insists. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience and director of the doctoral program in psychology at Baylor, acknowledges religion’s longstanding tense relationship with behavioral science. And he believes that conflict destroys lives. “Men and women with diagnosed mental illness are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demon possession, weak faith and generational sin,”

Stanford writes in his recently released book, Grace for the Afflicted. “The underlying cause of this stain on the church is a lack of knowledge, both of basic brain function and of scriptural truth.” As an evangelical Christian who attends Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, Stanford understands underlying reasons why many Christians view psychology and psychiatry with suspicion. “When it comes to the behavioral sciences, many of the early fathers were no friends of religion. That’s certainly true of Freud and Jung,” he noted in an interview.

Many conservative Christians also believe the behavioral sciences tend to justify sin, he added, pointing particularly to homosexual behavior. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association famously removed homosexuality from its revised edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As a theologically conservative Christian, Stanford stressed that scripture, not the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, constitutes the highest authority.

But that doesn’t mean the Bible is an encyclopedia of knowledge in all areas, and all people benefit from scientific insights into brain chemistry and the interplay of biological and environmental factors that shape personality. Furthermore, while he does not presume to diagnose with certainty cases of mental illness millennia after the fact, Stanford believes biblical figures — Job, King Saul of Israel and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, among others — demonstrated symptoms of some types of mental illness. “Mental disorders do not discriminate according to faith,” he said.

Regardless of their feelings about some psychological or psychiatric approaches, Christians need to recognize mental illnesses are genuine disorders that originate in faulty biological processes, Stanford insisted. “It’s appropriate for Christians to be careful about approaches to treatment, but they need to understand these are real people dealing with real suffering,” he said. Richard Brake, director of counseling and psychological services for Texas Baptist Child & Family Services, agrees. “The personal connection is important. Church leaders need to be open to the idea that there are some real mental-health issues in their congregation,” Brake said.

Ministers often have training in pastoral counseling to help people successfully work through normal grief after a loss, but may lack the expertise to recognize persistent mental-health problems stemming from deeper life issues or biochemical imbalances, he noted. Internet resources are available through national mental-health organizations and associations of Christian mental-health providers. But the best way to learn about available mental health treatment — and to determine whether ministers would be comfortable referring people to them — is through personal contact, Brake and Stanford agreed. “Get to know counselors in the community,” Brake suggested. “Find out how they work, what their belief systems are and how they integrate them into their practices.”

Mental-health providers include school counselors and case managers with state agencies, as well as psychiatrists and psychologists in private practice or associated with secular or faith-related treatment facilities, he noted. Stanford and Brake emphasized the vital importance of making referrals to qualified mental-health professionals, but they also stressed the role of churches in creating a supportive and spiritually nurturing environment for people with mental-health disorders. Mental illness does not illustrate lack of faith, but it does have spiritual effects, they agreed. “Research indicates people with an active faith life who are involved in congregational life get through these problems more smoothly,” Brake said.

Churches cannot “fix” people with mental illness, but they can offer support to help them cope. “The church has a tremendous role to play. Research shows the benefits of a religious social support system,” Stanford said. They stressed the importance of creating a climate of unconditional love and acceptance for mentally ill people in church — a need Grondin echoed. “There needs to be an unconditional sense of community and relationships,” she said. She emphasized the importance of establishing relationships that may not be reciprocally satisfying all the time.

People with mental-health issues may not be as responsive or appreciative as some Christians would like them to be, she noted. “Others need to take the initiative and keep the relationship established. People don’t realize how hard it can be (for a person with a mood disorder) to summon the courage just to get out of bed,” Grondin said. Christians who seek to reach out to people with mental illness need to recognize “they are not able to see things clearly, and it’s not their fault,” Grondin added.

Mostly, Christians need to offer acceptance to people with mental illness — even if they don’t fully understand, she insisted. “Just be present. Offer support and love,” Grondin concluded. “You won’t always know what to say. Just speak words of support into a life of serious struggles. That means more than anything.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.)
 

A great book:

“Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness” [Paperback] can be found at www.Amazon.com, by Matthew S. Stanford Ph.D

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For more information: National Alliance on Mental Illness (800) 950-6264 Anxiety Disorders Association of America (240) 485-1001  Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (800) 826-3632  American Association of Christian Counselors (800) 526-8673 Stephen Ministries (314) 428-2600

 

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Tigger Meets With a Therapist

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from the Internet–

 

A Therapists Consultation: TIGGER

(Winnie the Pooh’s Irrepressible Friend.)

Diagnosis:

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD): Tigger’s continual bouncing, hyperactivity and irresponsible attitude cause problems for him and those with whom he lives, as well as those he interacts with in the wider community.

Physical presentation:

Rarely sits still. He’s always running, climbing, or fidgeting.

Diet:

Having tried – and firmly rejected – honey, haycorns and thistles, Tigger settles on extract of malt as his food of choice. While this particular substance is unlikely to exacerbate his condition, a more balanced diet would almost certainly benefit him and perhaps contribute to an improvement in his behaviour.

Family background:

No information is available on Tigger’s life before his arrival at Pooh’s house. Nothing is known of his previous address or his family of origin, although it has been said that he is the only Tigger.

Patient notes:

Tigger’s arrival at Pooh’s house in the middle of the night is evidence of his inability to control his impulses. A less disordered individual would have known that it is more appropriate to visit people during the day, especially when dropping in on someone one scarcely knows or has never met.

Impulsive behaviour, interrupting and intruding are at the heart of Tigger’s problems. Soon after their first meeting, for example, Tigger suddenly interrupted Pooh, climbed on to the table, wrapped himself in his host’s tablecloth and brought everything crashing to the floor.

When questioned by Pooh about his behavior, rather than accepting responsibility for his actions, Tigger accused the tablecloth of trying to bite him. Tigger makes bold statements, such as declaring that he is only bouncy before breakfast. He proclaims impulsively that whatever food he is offered is what Tiggers like best, then gulps down large mouthfuls of the food in question, only to find he dislikes it very much.

More evidence of Tigger’s recklessness and poor impulse control is displayed by his belief that he can do anything. He has no sense of fear or responsibility. This was apparent when he climbed up a high tree with Roo on his back before he had ascertained whether he was able to climb a tree in the first place. Inevitably, they then got stuck when he realised he had no idea of how to get down.

On one occasion, Tigger grabbed Roo’s medicine from Kanga, which he proceeded to swallow, almost devouring the spoon as well. Obviously the medicine might have proved dangerous to him. Tigger never learns from his mishaps, bouncing back almost immediately after a frightening and potentially hazardous incident. As a result, Tigger’s behaviour causes concern to those around him.

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Living with someone suffering from ADHD can be trying. Perhaps this is why Rabbit suggested the rather extreme measure of taking Tigger into the forest and losing him in the mist. Rabbit and his friends believed the shock of being lost might cause Tigger to calm down a little on his return, a strategy that backfired…

“ADHD is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active.” –National Institute of Mental Health

Try out: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-the-basics/index.shtml#pub5

 

 

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Empty, Broken, Here I Stand [Kyrie Eleison]


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Quite a few years ago, I journeyed from off the beaten path in Alaska to Cambridge, England. It was there I somehow found myself on the streets talking to myself; alone, disoriented and quite lost. It was June of 2002 and I had just been released from a mental hospital in Alaska, and was under the care of a psychiatrist, I headed out without his approval. But here I was now all alone in a country I had never visited before. My confusion was profound. I was desperately, mentally ill.

I noticed the stares and the whispers as wandered the streets. Or maybe it was just my raging paranoia. But yet there’s more. Much more.  On just a mildly benign occasion I wandered into the English version of a Wal-mart. I was in a dreary daze, but I thought I ‘heard’ a 5 foot bush call out  as I walked by. I just knew my calling was a prophet. I was Moses. Who also heard God from a bush! 😇 (Exodus 3:2).

My chosen, eternal destiny was to save it. I grabbed and scootched it toward the check-out line. After a few minutes the bush was insanely heavy and I saw that the line was very long. After some time I finally abandoned the tree in the middle of the check-out line. It seems I did have some moments of clarity, even at my strangest. It was a weird experience. (What can I say, I’m a sucker for talking bushes.) 

I was told later that over hundred people were praying for me.

Finally, at my worst, I reached into my pack and there was this CD. I began to listen to it, and imperceptibly began to be restored to some semblance of sanity. My thinking was clearer and I would finally find my way back to where I was staying. One song on the CD in particular ministered to me. It’s called “Kyrie Eleison,” which is Latin for “Lord Have Mercy.” (The link below will take you there.)

Celtic-worship

THere it is on YouTube, https://youtube.com/watch?v=u4gCZc6CzLQ

Kyrie Eleison Lyrics

Verse 1
Empty broken here I stand,
Kyrie eleison,
Touch me with Your healing hand,
Kyrie eleison,
Take my arrogance and pride,
Kyrie eleison,
wash me in Your mercy’s tide,
Kyrie eleison.

Chorus–
Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison,

Verse 2
When my faith is all but gone,
Kyrie eleison,
Give me strength to carry on,
Kyrie eleison,
when my dreams have turned to dust,
Kyrie eleison,
In You O Lord I put my trust,
Kyrie eleison.

Chorus:
Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison,

Verse 3
When my heart is cold as ice,
Kyrie eleison,
Your love speaks of sacrifice,
Kyrie eleison,
Love that sets the captives free,
Kyrie eleison,
O pour compassion down on me,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 4
You’re the voice that calms my fears,
Kyrie eleison,
You’re the laughter dries my tears,
Kyrie eleison,
You’re the music, my refrain,
Kyrie eleison,
Help me sing my song again,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 5
Humble heart of holiness,
Kyrie eleison,
Kiss me with Your tenderness,
Kyrie eleison,
Jesus, faithful Friend and true,
Kyrie eleison,
All I am I give to You,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus 

THere it is on YouTube, https://youtube.com/watch?v=u4gCZc6CzLQ

 

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