The Evangelical FAIL on Mental Health: 100+ of my FB Friends Tell Their Shockingly Poignant Stories

The Evangelical FAIL on Mental Health: 100+ of my FB Friends Tell Their Shockingly Poignant Stories December 26, 2014
Pastors, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, psychologists, counselors– everyone: ignore these unedited shockingly poignant stories of the failure of Christians to address mental health issues at your peril. On December 23, I posted this question on my FB page. Please read the revealing responses that follow. Then “like” my FB page and join us in our many ongoing robust discussions you will only find on my page…
Is Mental Illness Caused By “Unrepentant Sin”? How Did Christians Help or Worsen Your Mental Health Problems? This Christmastime share your story. My father Francis Schaeffer suffered from depression and I’ve also felt the dark night of the soul from time to time. How about you? Did anyone help you? In our evangelical family depression was treated as a “spiritual problem” or a “lack of faith.” We didn’t believe in professional mental health care. We were more likely to believe in casting out demons than science-based counseling.Share your story about your mental health encounters (good or bad) with the Christian community, church and family related to your issues/problems/failures or triumphs large or small, and I’ll republish your comments on my Patheos.com blog.One in four American adults suffer from mental illness, and the Christian church is no exception.According to a recent study (completed by Lifeway Research) nearly half of evangelical Christians believe that mental illness can be overcome by “Bible study and prayer alone” is this true? It sure didn’t work for my family! And Have you had believers tell you that “getting closer to God” is the “answer” to your problems?Tell me your story here and I’ll publish it on my blog. Thank you!
  • Katherine Mantius BennettI went to Wheaton college. Was very earnest. Did not want to have premarital sex. Friend on my hall (also earnest) did have sex and told RA and asked for prayer leading to her being kicked out of school when she refused to say she wouldn’t have it again. Fast forward a few months. I did the deed with the man I ultimately married. Was so racked with guilt and shame I couldn’t stop crying. Got sent to Central Dupage Hospital for 10 days (til insurance ran out and I was pronounced cured). Still felt guilty. married a man I still care for but shouldn’t have married out of guilt. Life is good 21 years later. Definitely not crazy. But at the time I believed I was uniquely defective. Thank goodness we grow past fundamentalist thinking.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Katherine, Thanks for sharing this story… and I wonder how many women and men your story represents? I’m betting millions. And just imagine if on top of that you’d been gay! The sexual dysfunction of the evangelical community is a real soul killer. Thank you for the terrific note. Now Wheaton went to court to be able to deny women contraceptive coverage from their insurance— and won! It goes on… Best, Frank
  • Michael W GoochEvangelicals have turned Christianity into snake oil with their claims of healing hearts and their phony testimonials about such things.
  • Brian CordovaI do recall going through horrible depression in my teens and begging my family for psychological help, only to have my older sister guilting me by saying that if I did get help, it only proved that I didn’t trust God. Needless to say, I didn’t trust God much in those days and to this day, I still cringe at the words “Trust God!”.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Brain, Looking back historians will see America’s religiosity as a sort of madness that overtook our society… the sane people were depressed… only the certainty addicts could find this “normal.” Thanks for sharing. Best, Frank
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  • Sharon PetersJust a little hint: it’s impossible to have real relationships w/ addicts. The elements for honesty, empathy, are missing. The overwhelming need for a community of religious addicts is to ‘guard their supply’. What is their supply?
  • Steve MurrayThanks for facilitating this, Frank. There is much to learn in the sharing of our stories.
  • Ramona GriggFrank, I’ve read all the comments here and I’m both saddened and appalled at the cruelty needlessly inflicted on depressives who turned to their churches for relief and were turned away. The roots of depression are more physical than mental, and we’re not in the dark ages anymore. The post I wrote after Robin Williams’ suicide has nothing really to do with depression and religion but as a long time depressive with long family roots in mental illness, I felt I had to speak out about the ignorance surrounding depression and suicide. Feel free to use any part of it. I think this dialogue needs to carry far and wide: http://www.ramonasvoices.com/…/the-dark-sadness-claims…

    Rise up, Voices! …Speak Truth to Power… Bark Orders at…
    ramonasvoices.com|By Ramonas Voices
    • Frank SchaefferHi Ramona, thanks for the note… I agree “cruelty” is the word…. and it is based on certainty addiction. The churches would rather hang on to false ideas and destroy people than abandon so called faith. We have a problem… and the “Nones” those done with religion are multiplying… Best, Frank
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  • Charles RichardsI’m a counselor (that’s also a Christian). I believe some issues/problems are a sin problem and can benefit from spiritual counseling; obviously the problems I see in my practice, for the most part, aren’t those. I’m thankful that the church is moving in the direction of “if you need counseling, get it”. I believe the “sin only” approach has pushed depressed folks to suicide without interventions that could have helped; I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.
  • Stephanie GordonMy ex-husband suffered from anxiety and depression linked to histrionic personality syndrome, which we were unaware of for years. It sounds odd to say it, but he used prayer and holy talk as a little talisman against evil; he was very superstitious. He thought if he squeezed his eyes shut and whispered a prayer that all would be ok. He was really into church and prayer and actually worked for Pat Robertson for years. And yes, he talked about the devil all the time. Video games were of the devil. Education for women was of the devil. Careers for women were of the devil. Public school was satanic…you get the picture. He had to have an enemy. So his HPS got worse and worse and he started to act out; he had very serious problems with impulse control. Most of his problems were sexual; he became a sex addict. He cried a lot, screamed a lot, told me I was a bad wife. It’s quite true that I was impatient with his drama. One day I told him that he was acting like the kind of man who comes home from work and kills his entire family, and that if he did not get help, I was leaving. He went on meds and then to many, many “men only” counseling sessions at church but he told me it was mostly men sitting around bitching about how awful their wives were. We went to Christian counseling but the counselor failed to recognize my then-husband’s problems and assumed my then-husband was just a macho man who needed a lot of sex and who was stressed out. I assure you, the problems were far more problematic than just his being “macho.” The counselor spent more time talking about HIS marriage than he did about OUR marriage. He talked directly to my then-husband and didn’t seem interested in me. My then-husband dominated the conversation and reverted all discussion to HIS needs and what a great guy he was. After the session, I called the counselor and told him I was not going to engage in counseling with Christians any more, particularly with Christian men who thought women weren’t important. He sounded shocked, as if he hadn’t considered this issue ever before. So the marriage loped along and my then-husband got worse…to make a horribly long story short, my so-called Christian husband ended up repeatedly raping an underaged girl and lost everything. My sons and I decided Christianity was not for us. It took about ten years to heal from all that. For several years, I was in the darkest time of my life…I slowly came out of it WITHOUT help from god, jesus, the church, or christians.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Stephanie, what a detailed and terrific account. Everything right about you and wrong with the American evangelical idea of Christianity is in your story. I love the bit about the “counselor” being shocked to discover that you wanted to be treated with respect as a woman, and talk about your problems not his! I trust you are all well. Very Best, Frank
    • Kate AbbeMuch love to you and yours, Stephanie. Very sorry about the ex. Horror.
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  • Jacqueline BohrCognitive dissonance would have to e a primary source. Peace wont come till your theology makes sense.
  • Deb MartindaleOh yes, heard that ‘unconfessed sin’ a million times from “caring” Christians. Welll, the first Panic Attack I had when I was 3…and it’s continued to this day, along with depression. What unconfessed sin could a 3 year old have? Did I pick my nose and forget to ask Jesus to forgive me? Ugh…churches and the so-called Believers.
  • Richard LewisOne thing I have discovered from the religious is that they think its almost mandatory to assign blame onto a victim and then pass condemning judgment upon him. Jesus, by his own words, was not in favor of doing this. But I find that universally religious folks seek for facile explanations to complex questions.

    Blame the victim, regardless if it is someone afflicted, or say, for example, gay.
  • Adam YoungOne of many, a short one: Upon learning that I had been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome years earlier, a friend made a face reminiscent of a deer caught in headlights and quite simply said “that’s DEMONIC!” with no explanation (and I’m quite sure they didn’t even know what TS was apart from this analysis)

    I guess everyone misunderstanding me for years in my youth and all the territory that came with it was because… you know, “demons”. If the doctors only knew, think of the life I could have had back then!
  • Sara MoslenerThank you for facilitating this, Frank. This time last year I was suffering deeply with panic and anxiety. I reached out to friends and my religious community and found an incredible amount of support and care, even though it felt like I would forever be trapped in an underwater grave. This time of year has always been a big trigger for me, so hearing other people’s stories, even total strangers, is a true gift.
  • Maribeth Wright CurryThe last ‘altercation’ I had with a ‘Christian’ counsellor, she told me I had a ‘Santa Claus God’ b/c I pray for my kids to be safe and healthy etc… needless to say, I never went back. Growing up in a dysfunctional pastor’s family- where what the world saw was the diametrical opposite of went on at home– I’m still struggling to figure out what is in fact reality even now– Been thru the deliverance, spiritual roots of depression etc and while there was some help- mostly I believe because people actually loved on me (gave me time, listened to me) than because what they said/taught actually had merit… Thank you so much for your transparency Frank- it gives hope where they was none.
  • Laura GrimesMental illness and addiction run very strong on both sides of my family, so it’s no surprise I inherited the mental illness genes. I am very thankful that I don’t seem to have inherited the addiction gene. I believe I have suffered from depression (varying from mild to full-blown deepest pit) at least since age 7. I attend an evangelical bible church and, while I have struggled mightily with a lot of issues there, I can say my pastor was very, very supportive when I talked with him, and put no guilt or shame on me at all. While there is still quite a lot of misunderstanding in the evangelical world regarding depression and other mental illnesses, that is true of the wider world as well. Our American culture is very impatient, wants quick fixes, and the myth of the lone individual, conquering the world, runs so strong in our mythos. I shudder to think what people suffering from mental illness run into in some of those “new age” type groups, where they teach that we “create our own reality.” One of those type told me a few years ago that we choose the family we are born into. So, if you were abused by your father, for example, you chose that family because you had something to learn from it. Ugggggh. All that to say, this is not an exclusively evangelical/fundamentalist problem.
  • Dan ShafferThese posts are so sad and heartbreaking.
    Depression is not the absence of spirituality.
    As one who has struggled with depression for decades and takes medication for it, I know it is hard for people to understand that don’t have it.
    I have to remember constantly that my frame of mind is not indicative of reality around me.
    My depression may have been because of years of abuse from my dad.
    I do know my mind doesn’t release the proper chemicals as it should all the time.
    Bottom line, people need to be sensitive to not equate depression as a spiritual abnormality.
  • Phyllis Anne WeeksMy sister-in-law is an evangelical Christian who suffers from depression. There were Christians in her circle who told her that her faith wasn’t deep enough. Fortunately, she knew her faith was deep and saw a doctor. She can function now.
  • Neal CampbellI’ve suffered depression to the point of being in bed for more than a month, and all I wanted to do was sleep or die. I believe being raised in fundamentalism where we’re taught as children that we’re broken and evil is a prescription for mental illness. We grow up sing songs about being “wretches,” and it does deep psychological damage. The good news is that in the very difficult process of becoming an unbeliever, I started to overcome some of the mental illness that was systematically programmed into my brain as a kid. I still struggle with depression and feelings of inadequacy, but less and less as I move further away from my religious roots.
  • Wendy FranciscoI do have a story. I had a clinical depression in my 30s. It was the worst thing I ever experienced and included a break with reality. It was serious, and terrifying, a two year episode. A sweet person who was said to have the gift of deliverance told me sanity is a choice, and prayed for me. She never even hinted that there was something wrong in my life , or gave me any blame or guilt. It went away… not immediately, but it began to recede and continued to until it was gone. This was almost 30 years ago. The depression never returned.
    • Wendy FranciscoHaving gone through this, I think depression is dangerous. I think ministers should take it seriously and be educated about it, and from what I have heard, my story is one of a few positive examples, among many negative ones. I have had terrible uneducated and damaging counseling at churches on other occasions …. but this was one experience where the particular lady really had a gift. She was loving, and her input was amazing and healing.
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  • Jennifer Jones HamiltonMy mother has suffered from depression most of her life…several times she has taken herself off her medication (with no physician input) because she believed “God was telling her he was going to heal her.” Needless to say it was a disaster each time. I think she has finally come to realize that her depression is not a spiritual issue but the messages from various churches and church people in her life over the years have most definitely been more harmful than helpful. To all of us.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Jennifer, yes, those healings… and of course when it doesn’t happen, the answer? You needed more faith, so lets blame the victim… and so it goes, thanks for the post, Best, Frank
      Like · 7 · Commented on by frankaschaeffer@aol.com · December 23 at 11:54am
    • Chester PrusaczykSo many do not understand how painful and debilitating severe depression is. I suffered for 20+ years. Went to one MD for help, when I was about 21,and his answer was Church. I was told that if I just said that I except Jesus as my savior all my problems would end. Of course it did not work. That experience just made things worse. Made me a devout atheist. Next I tried going back to college [I had dropped out in 1970] and luckily I found a Professor of psychology who helped me get started on my fight to having some kind of normal life. My depression kept me from dating, I was 30 years old before I had my first kiss. I kept fighting the depression and at 33 I was married. The dark passenger was still there but I kept busy working and raising 2 children and have had a fairly normal life. For those with sever depression, don’t give up,things can get better.
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  • Joseph Galbraith ÂûI had suffered from anxiety and depression for all of my life, and a host of other issues…was constantly told it was because of my “spiritual” and “moral” flaws. I found out in 2008 I was born with a congenital brain defect and was also diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, I no longer carry the self imposed guilt, shame, and hatred that was imposed upon me by religion and family.

    There is NO doubt in my mind however, that the state of one’s soul can help or exacerbate these kind of things. I must say though that “spirituality” was used to bully and demean me, and actually made my problems worse. Now that I am diagnosed correctly, I still have issues, but my life is much better.
  • Sharon Colflesh AutenriethI grew up in a pastor’s family. Some of my family members have dealt with depression and addiction, a number of us have used medication and/or counseling. In my own case, I “came out” very publicly with my depression a couple of years ago and let everyone know (via my blog and Facebook) that I was going to therapy. I really received nothing but kindness and encouragement from my Christian friends – and a number of people thanked me for being so open about it, for helping to destigmatize mental illness. Our senior pastor has spoken from the pulpit about his own issues with anxiety and depression, and how helpful medication was for him. I know the church has been in the wrong on this subject at many times, and in many places, but in my context (Church of the Nazarene) I’ve found the Body of Christ has been very loving toward me in my weakness.
  • Shelby ArtistChristians did not help.
  • Steve Lee SrIn my mid forties I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Before the diagnosis, when I was aware there was a problem, I went to the pastor of my church to seek help. I was an elder in the church and the pastor was (I thought) a close friend. His conclusion was that the depression was a result of sin in my life. While I didn’t mind admitting to having sin in my life, I was also aware that there had not been an INCREASE of sin in my life. I wasn’t having an affair or anything.

    The problem did not get any better until one day when I was in the office of my primary care physician for an unrelated matter. He asked me how things were going and I exploded into tears. We talked a bit more and he referred me to mental health services. Medication and counseling eventually got me back on track, but the cold and superficial response from my pastor, coming at a time when I really needed help (and a friend) caused me to leave the church. It was the beginning of my final exodus from the evangelical church. I have been a happy participant in both the ELCA and the Episcopal church ever since. I can’t ever imagine going back to the simplistic and narrow-minded ranks of evangelicalism.

    I like to think that God was with me during the ordeal (though it didn’t feel like it at the time [I almost lost my job and my faith]) and that he used it to get me to a place where I am infinitely more happy and fulfilled.
  • Lynn JenningsI suffered from clinical depression for over 10 years Frank. I thought about suicide twice,it scared me enough to go and get help and I was put on several anti-depressants over the years. The last round I was on was a dose that was so high that even the pharmacist was questioning the doctors prescription and even then I was barely functioning. I did group therapy, individual therapy and seeing a psychiatrist to no avail. Mental illness runs in both sides of my family. I actually thank God that I was not a member of any organized religion at the time. Many family members prayed for me and many people had so many suggestions, like just snap out of it. Get out and exercise etc…What finally helped was a friend whose family had a history of thyroid disease and she convinced me to go see her doctor who is a metabolic specialist (my insurance did not cover this doctor and my husband and I decided it was worth stretching our budget to see if it would help.My husband says it was the best money we ever spent) and I was diagnosed with Thyroid disease. I also was so deficient in Vitamin D that she stated she was surprised I did not have rickets. I am now on a correct dose of Armour thyroid medication and I take a daily vitamin D dose and my depression and anxiety are gone. Turns out my brother who is bipolar has a thyroid condition and several of my family members do too. What I learned is that many times there is an actual medical condition behind the depression and mental illness, and ALL options should be explored. Prayer helped, but if I had relied solely on that I would more than likely be dead now. I have been off of anti-depressants for over 4 years now and have never been better. I have normal days where I can feel blue or restless but it is short lived not like the overwhelming ocean of despair I lived in before. I would like to state my diagnosis was a hard fought battle because many doctors insisted that my thyroid numbers were normal. Well normal for many was not normal for me. I am grateful for the anti-depressants that kept me alive and I am grateful for the treatment I received, but I am truly grateful for a husband and best friend that insisted there were answers and would not stop until we found them. I share my story hoping it will give someone hope, but want to remind everyone just like Tami Terry Martin below said, there is never one answer for everyone. One size fits all does not work for mental health. I am glad to see you addressing this issue. Thank you. Sorry this post is so long.
  • Jack HarbourMental illness, according to the kooks I hung with, was nothing more than “evil spirits”, either caused by “sin in your life”, or demonic “oppression or possession”……I spent 35 years in a very “radical” charismatic/evangelical church. Of course, being a charismatic church which would attract all kinds of oddballs kind of made the place a hotbed for folks who DID need the kind of help that mental health professionals provide. I was witness to many so called “exorsisms” during the altar calls (of which there were many) but yet the folks were supposedly “exorsised” seemed to remain the same. Fasting, scripture meditation, intense prayer (especially in tongues….which in itself can intensify mental illness and LOTS of crazy notions), were the “tools” that were pushed upon folks who dealt with worry and depression. It was taught that a “child of the King” should NOT suffer from these things and had no place in the “life of the church” and IF one was suffering from these things, it was a result of doubt and unbelief. So, on top of the very real issue of depression, we were told that it was NOT of God and we had to bury it even DEEPER into ourselves and so carry on as though nothing was wrong and so the issue was compounded upon itself. Im not trying to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” but I think that if you want to find some real mentally challenged folks, just walk into any hyper charismatic church today and you will see a sanctuary FULL of them……..and it is very sad. My family has been quite negatively affected by this nonsense and I have regrets every day for even setting foot into that culture……..
  • Korp Låga Och IsI really slowly have stopped believing in god, thus I doubt my depression is sin or faith based. However, I don’t know what it exactly is based on. I’ve been to doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, I’ve taken pills and therapy, I’ve talked about how I feel, hell, I used to cut myself because I was so miserable and angry that I wanted to hurt someone, but I’d only allow to hurt myself. Some self-destructive habits like that have stuck, and I can’t really shake it. The religious called me demon possessed, and I pondered if maybe I really was. I watched them exorcise someone else for the same reason, but I didn’t understand. I still don’t. I can’t force myself to believe that what I saw was how things are supposed to happen. I still think about it and get some weird, disgusting feeling inside my gut. Nothing will cure my depression, only numb it, it seems. Like morphine. Things will feel good for a while, but just as soon as it started, I’m making love to the ideal that I am the worst human alive. Maybe it’s my family, since they’re fundamentalist and I’m everything they’ve ever despised that could still be US-born and light skinned. Maybe it’s that my mother isn’t in my life and doesn’t love me. Maybe it’s that my dreams never really come true. Worst case scenario, my mind is right and I really really suck. But I have friends who feel the same. I suppose, in the words of Billy Joel, we’re sharing a drink called loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.
  • Dan FrankotCarl Jung thought it was almost impossible to attain phycological healing and wholeness without a spiritual reality. For me my faith in God has been powerfully healing in my struggle with anxiety/depression . But the God I believe in is whom Karl Barth called the “one who loves in freedom” , who Moltmann called the “crucified God” a God who is for us ,suffers with us with healing loving presence.
  • Mary Wisner MillerI believe in God and I believe he guided the people who invented depression medications. Amen.
  • Jeannie Sapp JohnstonI too am one of the many Americans who suffer from depression. I was on anti-depressants for over 15 years and was finally able to wean myself off of them – it took over a year! I have heard others say that mental illness is the result of demonic possession, influence, etc. and I suppose there is a possibility that some cases may be just that. However, I think it is dangerous to blanket all mental illness as the result of sin or possession. If we are going to say we believe that man sinned and fell and as a result we live in a constant corruptible state, we may intimate that ALL disease is a result of sin. I don’t see how mental illness should differ from cancer if we are going to adopt that world view. The Creator is the author of science and has given us the ability to study disease and find ways to cure some.To allow the stigma of sin/possession to attach to only mental illness is reckless and has the potential to undo years of work advancing the plight of those who suffer. Just my 2 cents.
  • Patrick DeZeeuwI try not to listen to Elliott Smith on a Monday however listening to Mark Heard (nothing produced by Chris Christian..irony there) rings true to my melancholy monster. Chesterton called it the “ache of the artist”. However I call it being an asshole. Until I took responsibility for my moodiness and decided not to let it impact those I loved by being an asshole nothing was going to change and what is worse is I became a “Christian” ass. So now the ones closest to me knew I was a hypocrite.

    So my lovely rational wife confronted me on my hypocrisy and my irrational nature. She wrote me a letter and in it she said, “you are a stupid inconsiderate jerk but I love you and will never leave you.”

    Mine was a chemical imbalance and sleep deprivation. Need my sleep, meds are dialed, avoid drama and no Elliott Smith on Monday but I will treat myself to a little Wilco once in a while. Oh and I have learned to laugh at myself. Ha!
  • Bill MurphyWhy single out Christians? Don’t atheists cause as many mental-health problems? Don’t people who think they know what’s best for others and never miss a chance to tell them cause mental-health problems?

    I’m not seeing a whole lotta health and well being around here. Just a lot of anger, finger pointing, more anger, and more finger pointing.

    For me, mental health means avoiding extremes – like atheists are always wrong (or right) and Christians are always wrong (or right).

    Wisdom can be found in many places. Why do you spend all your time shaking your fist at those who choose to find wisdom (and, I suppose, comfort) in the Christian tradition? I try to help people put down their anger, stop the blaming and finger pointing, and be at peace with who they are.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Bill, you make a good point. You might as well be quoting from my book Why I Am an Atheist Who Believes in God. I make the same point there. So are you “answering” me or talking to someone you read about that’s not me? Best, Frank
    • Kate AbbeIt’s true that simply being angry, and that it’s it! is ultimately not a salve for the problems that fundamentalist religions can cause. But one of the worst things is to tell people to “can” it and not ever be angry, to forgive fundies who don’t even believe there’s a problem let alone say there’s any wrong to fundie religion. I don’t think this is what’s going on with what you’re saying, but if it is, please stop.
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  • Andi StaabOh, I’m not even going down that road! Oh hell, I can’t help it. There isn’t a billboard large enough to explain how negatively Christianity has worsened my mental state. Or, it can be summed up in 4 words: “Christianity killed my family.”
  • Barbara E BabcockOne of the times I was in the hospital my roommate was a catholic nun who had been booted out of her cloister because she could not pray her depression away it has taken many years but I have found a small Church full of people who understand depression and know how to support me. The stigma around MI medicine is waning Thank God.
  • Ann BouchardChristian beliefs compound an individuals mental state with their belief system which provides no relief. Christanity does not recognize legitimate complaints that affect a person. Then a person turns inwards hating themselves. Depression in anger turned inward. There are ways to overcome depression of a spiritual nature, like nuturing your soul, caring for plants and animals, eating healthy, be involved with what you love and are passionate about, and find a way to be useful. The problem just may be the way the depressed person is treated. Let up on them. Give them a break because is all likelihood it is not “sin” on their part. I am feeling so much better now that I left Christianity. Will not ever go back. That thinking is so toxic coming from Christianity.
  • Judi ScrantonI feel so guilty for the years I wasted looking for a spiritual solution for my sons mental health issues. No mother wants to believe that her child has a mental illness and the community more often judged his behavior issues as poor parenting. I wanted to cast out his demons rather than face the hard work of dealing with the lifelong issue he faces.
    I think he has forgiven me but he has developed an aversion to anything spiritual because of his experiences.
    • Frank SchaefferHi Judi, what a terrific and honest post, if only we parents could get a few years back for a do-over! I know the feeling! Best, Frank
    • Kate AbbeJudi, that may be the best preventative of further problems for people who still must often deal with religious stigma on mental illness, especially for those who have it all their lives. A blessing in disguise.
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  • Barney RodawaldI don’t believe my mental illness is caused by an unrepentant sin. I don’t believe God works that way. He’s a loving God and it’s because of my relationship with God I’m here today. I write a blog and my faith is clear in my writings at
    www.49livingwithdepression.blogspot.com

    49livingwithdepression.blogspot.com|By Barney Rodawald
  • Tim WestLet’s remember that it’s only been in the last century that anyone has connected depression with chemistry. So it’s no wonder that people are still coming to terms with having to check out their physiology in connection with it. Can a depression be caused solely from distorted thinking? Absolutely. But in this day and age, assuming that to be the case is irresponsible. You may need to be treated for a medical condition. Don’t attempt to diagnose yourself.
  • Creston C DavisThanks for the invitation, Frank! It’s difficult to tell my story, but basically a few years ago, when my brothers either offed themselves or tried things started to spin. My best friend from childhood killed himself four years ago Christmas Eve. This all related to a terrible series of events that happened to me in a Church setting. My wife’s affairs were something that I dealt with until I came up with a deadly illness and this compounded with my friend and brother fate caused a serious spin in my life down into the “valley of darkness.” I lost everything. The church simply didn’t have the language to even speak with me. I’m still trying to figure all this out and it’s been four years.
  • Randy BuistIn college I was a psych major, and it seemed mental illness would never happen to me. On my 41st birthday I had all the signs of a heart attack; a month later I was told it was mild depression and anxiety. Our minds change, and our bodies change as we get older. I’ve learned to live into as best I can, and I still lean into the ways of Jesus as much as ever. Thanks to the other thoughtful people for posting.
  • Dan BarberMy clinical depression occurred after prostate cancer which affected my hormones. Having come out of a fundamentalist background, I realized that their “spiritual” diagnosis would be inaccurate. However, I also thought realize that there could be a spiritual aspect to the physical problem.

    It was at this point, I found a state-certified professional counselor who worked out of a United Methodist church. He actually steered me away from the spiritual diagnosis and sent me to a physician. My MD put me on Welbutrin and I began seeing my counselor a couple times a month. We eventually got into my past, the physical and emotional abuse I suffered in fundamentalism as a kid and he taught me the importance of forgiveness. He was also clear that depression is a physical ailment which may or may not have root in spirituality. I’ve been depression-free for 3 years now and I am grateful that he taught me the root cause was physical even though there may have been an emotional/spiritual aspect to it.

    I would like to add that I have a relative who many years ago was suffering from fatigue in a fundamentalist church. He went to the pastors who told him to get more involved in church activities and ministries, that he wasn’t doing enough for God. As it turned out, he had a form of muscular dystrophy. Thankfully he sought a medical diagnosis and didn’t actually kill himself thinking it was solely spiritual.
  • Allen AndersenI have severe depression. Have for decades. I go through cycles of pretty good to deep and dark. inevitably, someone always has advice. Repent. Pray. Jesus can heal you if you just claim it. You obviously aren’t really saved, some say. How can you be sick if you have Jesus. And on and on and on.

    Medication keeps me functioning most times. Therapy and counseling help too. But of course that’s “bad” because I’m not “fully relying on God”. So much more I can say, and I can if you want. Recently I was asked to serve as deacon at my church. That caused some people to leave because they didn’t think my faith was strong enough. (Obviously, if it was, I wouldn’t be “sick”, duh.)
    • Frank SchaefferHi Allen, this is SO helpful! Thanks for the honesty. Too bad for the people who left your church! You’ll bring great compassion to those like me who need it most! I’ll join because you are there! Love and Best, Frank
    • Frank Schaeffer

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  • Tami Terry MartinThere are so many causes of mental illness. Counseling can and does help. Medicine helps. Exercise helps. Suggesting there’s only one kind and only one answer NEVER helps anyone.

    I have been in the mental health field for a while now. I went into it while attending a particular fundamental denomination in this country and I expected to go off to college and beard the lion in his den. I wasn’t a fresh faced freshman naive to the ways of the world. I was confident in my faith.

    Wasn’t it funny that the difficulties I faced came from my church? Suddenly 100 year old psychotherapy a’la Freud was the subject of several sermons in the most negative light possible. Suddenly “friends” wondered how I could stand to be away from my kids (they were in school all day when I was). I had great discussions – respectful discussions with my professors that were nothing like what I expected. At the same time, the support I expected was instead complete drive-me-away-from-the-church derision.

    Love, it would seem, is still the answer. Love for those who are different than we are and love for those who might hurt us. Just love.