April 29, 2006

Religion - a Problem and Opportunity for Mental Illness

A new research study published in "Health Services Research" looked at the role that religious belief played in mental health and use of mental health services by the seriously mentally ill.

The study is titled "Religious involvement and the use of mental health care; Religious beliefs influence mental health".

In essence, the study implied that because many people in the US participate in religious services of some sort -- and therefore religious organizations could be a strong source of mental health information if they have people who are well-educated in the science of mentall illness and prepared to direct people to the appropriate mental health services when they recognize a person who is displaying early symptoms of a serious mental illness.

Unfortunately, echoing the statements of many family members in the schizophrenia.com discussion areas - the seriously mentally ill people who reported that their "religious beliefs influenced their decision making" were significantly less likely to use mental health care (because they were more likely to see the mental health issue as a religious issue and not a medical issue).

This suggests that increased outreach educational efforts by support groups like NAMI, and Schizophrenia Society of Canada - to educate clergy about the early symptoms of schizophrenia - could be very productive in helping get the seriously mental ill to treatment as early as possible - before the delusions become too well entrenched and the chance that the person would accept treatment still remains. Some efforts in this direction have been taken (as an example, see the book: Strength For His People: A Ministry for Families of the Mentally Ill) but much more could be done by religious organizations.

To delve a little deeper into the study, the research report suggested:

"Several studies suggest that although religious providers play a relatively small role in the mental health care delivery system, contact with religious providers represents a key entry point into the formal mental health care system (Narrow et al. 1993; Young et al. 2003;Wang et al. 2004). Epidemiologic data from the National Comorbidity Survey suggest that roughly a quarter of people turned to religious providers first for help with their mental or emotional problems (Wanget al. 2003). The same study shows that the role of religious providers depends on the presence and severity of mental health problems. Wang et al. (2003) that while those with serious mental illness (SMI) comprise 16.3 percent of patients reporting any use of religious providers in the past year, those with SMI comprise only 8.7 percent of those reporting religious providers as their sole source of care."

Summarizing the part of the study that focused on serious mental illness, the authors stated:

Among those with serious distress, those who reported that religious beliefs were an important part of their lives were significantly more likely to use mental health care, while those who reported that their religious beliefs influenced their decision making were significantly less likely to use mental health care.

Source: Religious involvement and the use of mental health care;
Religious beliefs influence mental health, Health Services Research, April 2006.

More Reading:

Research Findings on Religious Commitment and Mental Health


"Religious beliefs influence mental health." ? ?

I believe it should read the other way around, " mental health influence religious beliefs."

Have a nice Day.

Posted by: ainee at April 29, 2006 06:17 PM

I think that religious beliefs can affect thinking. For example, if you
are seeing things and hearing things and feeling things, it can be overwhelming.You might think that the reason you are hearing something is a sign of some sort, because you are supposed to do something, or are chosen somehow. So, hopefully if religious leaders can cooperate, it might prevent some harm to people and others if they can recognize signs and help that person get into therapy.

Posted by: anonymous at April 30, 2006 07:57 AM

Religion is the opium of the people and we all know how bad
dope is for the mentally ill.

Posted by: Garfield at April 30, 2006 11:49 AM

I definetely agree with the article. I have a brother who is shizophrenic and he believes in religion. He doesnt' want medication, because he thinks that believing in God and going to church is the correct way to lead his life. He does little else.

Posted by: cristinabryan at May 1, 2006 02:22 PM

I agree with this article and I think some countries where religious believes play an important role in their way of thinking this affects the features of the illnesses their

Posted by: nashwa at May 2, 2006 01:03 AM

My child has a very serious mental illness-possibly schizophrenia combined with a seizure disorder. Hospitalized five times in the last 13 months, it is his faith and his church family that allows him to persevere through his often harsh treatment with courage strength and dignity. In the Bible, the Lord tells us, "For I did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a SOUND MIND". (2 Timothy 1:7, I believe) He holds on to that promise. Our church prays for him, loves him, visits him and encourages all of us as we battle this together. His gentle, kind and obedient spirit are an encouragement to staff and other patients. No, his faith is not keeping him from treatment-it is what keeps him there to run the race and thereby inspire others to follow his example of courage at whatever life may put into our paths.

Posted by: Mom of 8 at May 2, 2006 08:44 PM

I am paranoid schizoprenic not by choice.I turn to religious belief for hope and courage to fight my illness. General Public do not understand the pain I go through struggling to live a normal life. If people can reach out for AIDS and Cancer, why can't they do the same for people like me? I don't beleive we deserve a life-sentence of torment. I hope their religous beliefs will encourage them to keep living.

Posted by: victim with love at May 4, 2006 10:30 AM

My comment has nothing to do with Moussaoui. I am addressing the fact that paranoid schizoprenic is a life-time illness that can never be recovered. Take good care of yourselves.

Posted by: victim with love at May 5, 2006 03:42 AM

For hundreds of years, the only care-givers for the mentally ill were teachers and healers of the many different religions all over the world. For they were the learn'ed ones. It is because of their early efforts that the "science" of psychiatry (and psychology) exist. This science deals with the mind, the heart and the soul of the person suffering. Yes, medicine has done wonders, but it still those who lovingly LISTEN to the pain and anguish; those who attempt to understand the sufferer, which define this practice. And how many of these practitioners are religious? Pastors, Rabbis, Shamans, Nuns, "Witch-Doctors", Priestesses, and so on. Sometimes religion has got it wrong, but oh-so-many times they have got it right. We must all continue to study, to learn, to listen and try to understand. Then maybe we can begin to heal... not only those that suffer, but ourselves as well. Be Well.

Posted by: Loving Student at May 12, 2006 01:46 AM

atheism may be a delusion. theism may be a delusion. the origin of space
is unknown. the origin of dimension itself is unknown. the study of philosophy at ucsb when i was 17 caused me much anguish. cosmology etc.
the study of descartes and the mind-body problem. materialism, the theory
that the organ of the mind is the brain, there is no soul or ghost in the
machine. immaterialism the belief in a soul. relativism. absolutism.
what constitutes true freedom? here in the mega-state, they talk freedom
and build prisons. state hospitals are more like concentration camps.
double-speak. communism vs. capitalism. political and religious prisoners
all down through history. atheists persecuting theists. and vice versa.
accept evolution, computerized society, or be rejected from the society.

Posted by: terry at May 19, 2006 04:18 AM

religious beliefs can be a double edged sword with mental illness. it can be a source of strength, or, if the person has religious delusions, they may be unwilling to get help, believing they are a messiah and need to continue and reach the world with their message. the worst situation is when 'religious' people get ahold of those with religious delusions and convince them not to get help for their illess.

Posted by: slc at May 19, 2006 05:30 AM

If you can't accept that some people actually do reach God then you should not go to Church or consider yourself Christian or part of any religion because that is what they are based upon. Who is to say that what schizophrenics experience holds no truth? A criminal is different than someone who is just considered mentally ill. Actions are different than just thoughts.

Posted by: Josh Kane at May 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Just a quick note from a non-Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) tradition.

The question of whether mental health influences religiosity or vice versa is a chicken-n-the-egg conundrum. The two traits are, in the language of medicine, have synergistic effects. Many experiences of religious visionaries are not unlike the "hallucinations" of people w/schizophrenia, etc. I suspect it's a matter of magnitude, not unlike sickle cell anemia (i.e., a mild case helps you fight off malaria; a strong case kills you).

For me, finding the "right" religious tradition for the turning point in me making significant recovery from the bad spot I was in viz-a-viz mental illness (I really have some hesitation in calling it an illness, because that constellation of brain characteristics has given us Beethoven, Van Gogh, Mozart, any number of mathematicians (did you know that math & schizophrenia often occur in the same family?), etc.

My wife believes that she was miraculously/divinely cure of ovarian cancer decades ago. In a similar vein, I am sure that my recovery has a similar source: Apollo (Gr: Apollon). Makes sense, being the god of medicine and all.

My new (relatively speaking) spiritual path has opened new doors. I have a close relationship w/Hermes and my situation bears that out. Google for "Hermes attributes" and you'll find such activities as athleticism, luck, cleverness, travelling, commerce, literature (He invented the alphabet by observing cranes flying) and "guiding" (which I translate out to mean "mentoring". For some reason, children and animals like me. There's a simple (mundane) reason for this: I treat them as equals/people. It amazes me how many people talk down to children or otherwise marginalise them, and don't believe that animals (mostly domestic cats and dogs) have facial expressions. I have a sheltie that looks positively martyred come the bath. :)

Further deponeth sayeth not.

Posted by: Autolykos at December 2, 2006 07:35 PM

So consider that both of the following statements is true: God exists. God does not exist. Believe in the paradox/mystery/dualism or whatever you want to call it. Believing in the paradox will bring us closer to unity. I believe there is a higher truth above these two statements that has yet to be discovered.

Posted by: yottzumm at February 3, 2007 09:43 PM

My mother is a undiagnosed schitzophrenic. She does not believe that she is schitzophrenic and does not see any harm that this disorder is causing in her life and to the others around her. She is a born again spirt-filled christian and believes that her ability to "see demons" is a Gift God has given her. To my knowledge the ability to see demons is not biblical. She thinks the majority of people around her have some kind of demon pocession and she believes that the calling God has placed on her life is to "free the people". She lives in a world of fear. She has no social life. She goes to work everyday and comes home and sits in her smoke filled apt smoking and watching t.v. The only outings she makes into society is to buy grocerys and cigarettes. She always tells me that she believes that she has a hard time obeying God. So she never steps up to the plate to cast demons out of people because shes too afraid. She sits at home and sulks and beats herself up because she believes that she is disobeying God by not casting out demons and she thinks that by not casting out demons she is the cause for peoples suffering. My entire family has a history of mental illness on both sides. My father and myself have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My brother has been diagnosed as being a hypocondriac. My moms cousin and her 3 kids have all been diagnosed with schitzophrenia and so has one of my first cousins. My moms grandmother was in a mental facility for a good portion of her life and it is said that she "heard voices". It is very confusing to be raised by a christian woman who thinks she sees demons. For a very long time I believed everything my mother taught me. It has destroyed my life and I feel like one of the most confused people on earth. I don't know what to believe anymore. There are lots of things in this world that are unexplainable and just because society puts a label on something, does not mean that it's not happening. I do not believe that my mother is being driven by Godly forces because otherwise the outcome would not be so negative and inflict so much pain. But maybe she is seeing demons? I can't judge that. I've never seen one before. I don't know what shes experiencing. I don't know if its all in her head, if her brain is somehow malfunctioned and it causes her to see things that really arnt there, or maybe a higher power somehow is involved. I don't know. My moms religious antics have always been used as a form of control. This is why I believe that if there is some kind of force behind it, it's not Godly. I love my mom and I want more than anything to get her help but she doesnt think she has a problem. It is very frusterating. I live in the same apt building as my mother, simply because I hate leaving her alone. I constantly worry that if I leave things will get worse and something might happen where she hurts someone or herself. I am young now and living near my mother is okay for now. I know I am going to have to leave eventually. It will be very difficult. Mental illness is very difficult and I do not wish this on anybody. I do believe that religion can help people suffering from mental illness if the mental illness is something that has been diagnosed first. I don't think religion should be used to "explain" a mental disorder.

Posted by: Angelbomb at January 16, 2008 09:45 PM

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