What Some Christians Say About Mental Health
Some Christians believe that mental illness is the result of backsliding, or surrendering to demons. Others disagree. Regardless of what you believe, some Christian authors may challenge your thinking on the following five issues discussed below.
"Mental Health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, is able to make a contribution to his or her community." - World Health Organization
(1) Mental Health and Selflessness
Collin Standish,1 PhD questions the popular view that lack of love and acceptance contributes to mental illness. He proposes that an individual who grew up with insufficient love, is better treated with teaching him to love than catering to his need for attention.
Standish illustrates that egocentricity is basic to each of the major forms of mental disorders (not resulting from physical causes) for example:
- the paranoiac is obsessed with people trying to inflict him with physical harm
- the schizophrenic, unable or unwilling to relate to his real social world, creates his own world of make believe
- the depressive is usually over-concerned with the attitudes of others to himself
- the suicidal performs the greatest act of egocentricity.
Standish proposes that “sound mental health demands an environment in which the child learns habits of selflessness by being taught how to play successfully with other children, how to be interested in the happiness of others, and the importance of sharing with others . . . It can most usefully be achieved by loving firmness until the child's will is positively involved in the behavior.”
(2) Who Should Treat Mental Illness?
Some conservative Christians are scared to accept treatment from mental health professionals because:
- In Bible times, it was the priest who performed the role of doctor.
- Prayer, hymns and Bible Reading should provide a cure for all mental illnesses.
- Pioneers in the field of psychology (especially Sigmund Freud) proposed that faith in God is the reason for many mental illnesses.
Dr. Andreas Bochmann,2 pastoral counselor, encourages Christians to cooperate with mental health professionals. He provides a list of professions and roles field to help us understand how they interact.
- Psychiatrist - medical doctor with specialized training in mental disorders; treats illness with medication
- Psychologist - scientist who observes and describes behavior; has studied psychology not medicine.
- Psychotherapist - trained psychologically not medically, the psychotherapist heals the soul, usually by talking with the patient; works with a medical model.
- Psychoanalyst - psychotherapist who follows the methodology that was originally developed by Sigmund Freud, focusing on conflicts from the past and their impact on current life.
- Counselor - mental health professional who works in similar ways to a psychotherapist, but does not work with a medical model. The focus is on preventing and managing various problems in life.
- Pastoral Counselor - someone who has received both mental health and pastoral training, intentionally integrating spirituality into the process.
- Pastoral Care Person - more of a function than a profession, this can be a pastor or any one in a church who by training or talent and helping attitude offers pastoral care to people in need.
Dr. Bochmann advises, "The fact that some people challenge our faith does not need to scare us, but can in fact help our faith to grow.”
(3) Mental Health Benefit of Meditation
Meditation is among the many suggestions for maintaining mental health. Donald S. Whitney,3 seminary professor, points out that “While other types of meditation may suggest approaches to disengage the mind, Christian meditation aims to fill the mind with thoughts related to Biblical passages or Christian devotions.”
In fact, the Bible itself provides the subject matter for Christian meditation:
- God's unfailing love ( Psalm 48: 9)
- God's promises (Psalm 119: 148)
- God's wonderful works (Psalm 145: 5)
- God's statues (Psalm 119: 99)
Douglas Groothuis,4 seminary professor, warns, “No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos . . In the Bible, meditation always means pondering God's revealed truths and reflecting on how they pertain to us."
(4) Mental Health Benefit of Sabbath Rest
The state of well-being includes “working productively and fruitfully” and the ability to “cope with the normal stresses of life.” Both these two aspects of mental health are addressed in the Scripture verse below:
- You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord (Exodus 35:2).
Lisa Morrone,5 physical therapist and author comments: Setting the Sabbath apart from the busyness of the rest of the week breeds physical, mental, and emotional health by allowing us the opportunity to reflect, recreate, and recharge.
Roy Adams,6 seminary professor, puts it this way: Sabbath is about atmosphere; about a radical change of pace; about finding space for God; about making time for special communion with Him. It’s about expelling every intrusion within our power so as to create an environment in which spirituality can strengthen."
(5) Mental Health and Personal Faith
Finally, there is enough evidence7 to show that a personal religious faith is a valuable asset to mental health.
Here are just a few research findings on people's ability to cope with life's pressures:
- Personal faith in recently widowed women offered them a greater sense of joy in life than in those having no faith.
- Mothers of disabled children who had a religious faith were less subject to depression than those who did not have faith.
- A strong faith was also shown to allow people to hold onto happiness after unemployment, serious illness, divorce, or bereavement.
"Although psychotherapists have often been dubious about the effects of religion on mental health, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that religiousness has a positive effect on overall mental health and well-being."8
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) | USA.gov
Contact NIMH for information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, clinical trials and research.
- List of Psychological Disorders
List of psychological disorders. Different categories of mental disorders. Examples of each type of psychological disorder.
- 1Standish, Collin; "A Christian Approach to Mental Health," Ministry International Journal for Pastors, June 1974.
- 2Bochmann, Andreas; "Working Together for the Common Good" Mental Wellness Handbook, (High Wycombe, 2009, UK), pages 26 and 27.
- 3Whitney, Donald S; "Meditating on God's Word," Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress 1997) Chapter 3, Part 2
- 4Groothuis, Douglas; "Dangerous Mediations," Christianity Today, 2004
- 5Morrone, Lisa; " Protect Your Sabbath Rest," Get Healthy for Heaven's Sake, 2012
- 6Adams,Roy;' "Keeping the Sabbath," Adventist Review, Article 1207, 2007
- 7,8 Bailey, Cindee M PhD; "The Effects of Religion on Mental Health" Pages 2 and 7
© 2013 Dora Weithers