December 16, 2005

Churches and Mental Illness - Progress

People in our discussion groups have mentioned some bad experiences in the past where churches or other religous groups didn't understand mental illness (and blamed the person for their disease or disorder). While some groups, like Scientology, still take this approach - it seems that most have moved beyond this lack of knowledge and have learned about the progress that 20th and 21st century science has given us. Following is an excerpt on this topic from a story in the Argus Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota). We hope more religious groups of all denominations start offering more services like these to the mentally ill.

"Many churches already have taken broad steps toward helping members struggling with mental illnesses. Some churches have provided ideal locations for support group meetings. Others have found ways to normalize the problem, said Del Donaldson, a therapist and seminary professor. And most work to dispel any thought that a mental illness is a punishment for those of lesser faith.

"Is this a punishment from God? Maybe some churches believe that," Donaldson said. "But I think folks are better informed and tuned in to the human dilemma."

People today have a considerable knowledge about mental illness, one that was not available in biblical times, Donaldson says.

Joyce Kaatz, parish nurse at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, puts it bluntly.

"If you have pastors or churches or staff who tell you you're not strong enough in your faith, you might want to find another church," she said.

"The people who say that, they don't understand depression or mental illness."


i don't know how much more i can take. my BF is schizophrenic, unwilling to consider meds, believes "they" are "working on him" consantly. there never seems to be any room for me in this relationship. I need support. Where do I get support? if i don't find someone to talk to soon, i will end up leaving him even though i know don't want to.
i'm super sad and i have a hard time not getting mad.

Posted by: lolly at January 20, 2006 12:26 AM

Unfortunately there is too little info about mental illness and even if there were more info, people would not accept. Years ago a boy with autism was beaten to death by a pastor from God's Assembly because "the devil didn't got out". The pastor was not arrested and said the boy was to blame. I just can't take anymore the Universal church TV propaganda with their "proofs" of demon possession: hearing voices, seeing ghosts, persisting headaches, chronic pain...
Why if physical illnesses are mere physical illnesses, mental illnesses should be caused by demons/spirits and other evil creatures? The brain is formed of matter and can suffer material problems.

Posted by: piece_of_myself at February 9, 2006 02:42 PM

I lost my church job as organist because the other organist there who hired me to play funerals " is not comfortable with working with me" after hearing and experiencing my illness in action. What can I do about this and why won't my Priest talk to me about it? He never responds to my aking to talk to him throught the parish secretary? This is unfair and not right. I am being stimatized.

Posted by: Donna O'Malley at March 13, 2006 07:29 PM

I am sorry to hear that many have problems with religion because of their mental illness. I am LDS and when I was hospitalized, I had most of my ward come visit me in the hospital. My church has also been there for me if I needed help to pay the medical bills. My point is this. People have a hard time accepting mental illnesses. Not all LDS people are accepting of it. I think though there are people of all faiths that understand and people of all faiths who dont understand mental illnesses.

Posted by: mcb at April 24, 2006 09:45 PM

my son became significantly ill on his mission in Taiwan unrecognized to anyone as he was so adept at covering his phycosis. he came home "empty" and a whole different person. my straight A honor student, eagle scout, envied athlete, humble, christlike, loved by all - son was gone. a couple years later when we finally figured out that he had this severe mental illness that he battled, we could much better understand what was happening. he is doing well on medication but is very alone. he is 25 and all of his friends are moving on in their lives and he has to start over. he has not been very active in church since all of this started. spiritual things have been very difficult/dellusional and he has set this part of his life on a shelf for a time which has kept him from the great help and support that the church could have been for him. he sure could use a friend who understood well his struggles.

Posted by: kay at August 30, 2006 09:19 AM

I have been diagnosed with schizoprhenia for many years. I know that God created me. I also know that there is Demon possession problems, However, I have never been possesed by the devil. It is possible for a demonic spirit to posess someone, that person needs to get in touch with the real God and ask Jesus to protect them in Jesus name, and get help by a pastor also to explain things to them. The King James Bible published in 1611 and worded exactly the way that the actual people who wrote it in hebrew and greek just translated into the English language, is a place to start. King James allowed people to translate the bible word per word as long as his name was on it. Check it out in European History!

Posted by: L P at March 3, 2007 08:18 PM

I would like to know the Assemblies of God denomination stand concerning mental illness and depression. My roots in that denomination go back to the beginning of the denomination as my grandfather Ray was in attendance and signed some of the original charter papers as a witness. I grew up in my little assembly of God church in Arkansas and never once heard any preacher or evangelist approach this subject...yet my spirit filled mother suffered from depression so severely that she wrote a suicide letter which I accidentally found when I came home from school when I was 15 years old. My father and grandmother had to put her in the pysychiatric ward for 2 weeks of electroshock treatments. It took me many years to get over that horrible experience as I am convinced that she would have killed herself if I had not found that letter that she had written my father.

I suffer from bi-polar depression which is a fourth generation great grandfather committed suicide because of it..he made a decision to end his life rather than spend the rest of it in the arkansas state mental hospital which was a snakepit. He left behind my great grandmother and 10 children...the family never got over his self inflicted death and it has been a cloud over the family ever since.

I fault the church, especially the charasmatics and the pentacostals for not looking at this horrible problem squarely and trying to provide love and support for people who desperately need to love the love of Christ when their mind is working properly!!!!

Posted by: JOHN RAY at May 5, 2007 11:18 AM

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