• Christians And The Stigma Around Mental Health: What You Should Know

    The problem is real and it’s large. Roughly 20 percent of American adults struggle with a mental health condition. That estimate is probably on the low side because of stigmas that still exist. In particular, Christians may find it challenging to talk about what they feel and experience. Turning to your church in tough times makes sense. But what if the church would rather keep things quiet?

    In a recent survey, about 75 percent of Christian pastors admitted that they know someone with either bipolar disorder or depression. Despite this awareness, far too many churches lack the skills, training, or staff to handle this population. Part of this is due to the stigma.

    Why Do Christians Have a Stigma Around Mental Health?

    Where’s Your Faith?

    If you’re dealing with symptoms of, say, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), why don’t you just give them to God? Far too many Christians don’t talk about mental health seriously. Any issue is minor and no reason to talk with a therapist. Just pray and believe, right?

    But Christians see an oncologist if they have cancer. Broadening things out a bit, they also consult experts on a wide range of needs and issues, e.g. plumbers, teachers, politicians, and more. Mental illness is the one area where people will tell you just “toughen up.” This brings us to…

    Weakness

    Something like anxiety or dissociation or disordered eating is seen as a “weakness” that can and must be overcome. The church often advises willpower as a solution to problems. And there is value in self-discipline. But some problems require far more than a motivational video to address.

    Perhaps most importantly, when did weakness become so taboo? A human of any faith is still a human. By definition, this means they will struggle at times. The logical and faithful solution seems obvious. Get yourself on parallel tracks. Pray for help and guidance. Talk to a mental health professional to make sure you’re on the right track.

    Imposed From Above

    It’s not unusual for church members to categorize mental illness as a message of some sort. God is testing you and/or punishing you. This seems like a rather cruel interpretation of events but let’s take it at face value. Let’s say the psychological issues you’re dealing with require you to respond. Wouldn’t it be a fully admirable reaction to a test or punishment to be resourceful?

    Clearly, we humans do not have all the tools we need to handle the wide array of things that can happen to us. That’s why God made us all so different. Some people are gifted when it comes to helping others in mental distress. When faced with such a situation, it shows intelligence and self-love to seek out those who can help. You might even say you’ve responded well to either a test or a punishment.

    How Can You Help Change This Situation?

    You can play a major role in ending the stigma. The first step is to trust in God and in your faith by speaking up. It doesn’t have to be confrontational. Find avenues in which you can talk openly about the increase in numbers of mental health disorders and in suicide. No good Christian wants these trends to continue. So, connect with them as part of the solution.

    In the meantime, you must get the help you need for the problems you’re facing. This involves connecting with a skilled, Christian-based therapist. In such a setting, you can blend your faith with your treatment and receive crucial help in both ways. If you feel contracted by the stigma around mental health in your church, you and I should talk — soon. Feel free to reach out.