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How Evangelicals Treat Mental Illness Survivors

It occurs to me, that people are quite logical regarding getting medical treatment for any disease...that is, until they hear someone has a mental illness.  Suddenly all reason flies out the window.  Reason is replaced with immediate judgment from 50% or more members of any religious community.  Mental illnesses are treated as though they are spiritual in origin. 

Let's try this reasoning on and see how it feels, shall we?  Try telling the person who is having chest pains to merely get on their knees pray and/or read psalms to calm their heart.  Or, let's tell the person who broke their leg to just ignore it and take every thought (that you have a broken leg) captive and make it obey you.  Tell the cancer patient to forget going for a biopsy.  Tell them that prayer is their only means of treatment and see what happens.  Sad reality is, we'd never think of treating people who suffer from such ailments to take such irrational measures.  Yet almost every individual who suffers from mental illness (brain chemistry illness) is treated as sub-spiritual, sub-human beings. 

If you are honest, some of you reading this will admit you have been guilty of such remarks and thoughts. It's a widespread problem and people are listening a little bit, but not nearly enough.  50% of all evangelical Christians believe prayer alone is sufficient treatment for mental illness.  (Lifeway Study) Yet though they hold to this belief, they don't practice it and that, my friends, is the perfect definition of hypocrisy!  These are the same people who run to the doctor the moment they are hurt or have a medical emergency.  Yet when a Christian suffers with mental illness, the offer pat little spiritual answers that are full of pride and personal judgment.  This has to stop!

According to Dr. Paul Meier, there are no recorded instances of immediate diving healing in mental health patients.  He has never witnessed it in all the thousands of patients he has treated.  Yet, he has lovingly guided people to take medication....along with taking care of their spiritual needs.  But the spiritual needs are not to blame for their illness.  Oh, it can exacerbate the condition, for sure.  And add to that the guilt and individual feels when they have begged God for healing and it doesn't come.  The shame and guilt that accompanies such judgment and ridicule is astounding.  Ask my husband and he will tell you it only elongates the illness and aggravates the symptoms.

How I wish we could get this through our heads.  But for some reason, Christians seems to have a problem with being completely honest.  It's hard to educate this group of people because so often pride has guarded their long held beliefs and traditions.  No one can change their one, that it, until it hits home!!!!!!  Have we stopped long enough to understand that Jesus doesn't want us to live like this?  Do we really grasp that he was the loving, compassionate Christ.  He used spit and clay to heal a blind mans eyes.  That, to me, is symbolic and indicates that medicinal treatment was acceptable to him.  Luke, a physician, was one of his followers.  Did Jesus not think Luke a worthy friend? 

I hope you are following me. Christians are not guaranteed physical healing.  If by his stripes were true, then no one would get sick...EVER!  You'd be healed before it occurred.  All sickness is a result of the fall of man.  Every disease originates there and all disease is on equal footing because of that.  And you will die of something.  Death is inevitable.  You are not promised an easy life. It's his choice to heal and when he heals, it's to reveal his power and glory. 

It's not to relieve you but to prepare you and to help others come to know who he is through you.  We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive.  If every soul was relieved of it's suffering, how would we comfort one another in trials and difficulties?  No, instead of relief, God provides something far greater...that ability to withstand.  He promises that through the use of medicine, doctors, treatment, therapy and life management...a beautiful thing happens.  We are transformed and progressively HEALED.  It's amazing to experience this.  I have watch this personal transformation in both my husband and myself.  Moment by moment, day by day, month by month and year by year, healing has occurred. 

But it has only happened as we have done the hard work and taken the right steps. It requires shutting out the negative voices that promise Jesus is all you need.  Jesus is all you need when it comes to Salvation, but I promise, in this life I need a lot of things...INCLUDING HIM!!!!  I need love, acceptance, friends, support, compassion and forgiveness.  He is all those things but we are not islands meant to go through life alone.  Yet isolation occurs with every soul who has faced mental illness.  We are forced to have to leave behind friends and family when they become an obstacle to our healing.  How very sad, because what we need most is the support of family and friends. 

Survivors of mental illness are much stronger than the credit they are given.  Survivors have to face the reality of the losses... which are extensive...and learn how to press on and cope.  The losses can seem impossible.  The cycle of loss continues every time an individuals stamps "SPIRITUAL PROBLEM" on every person suffering with mental illness.  Some without knowing, cause a person to regress, lose hope and become deeply depressed or suicidal. 

Have you ever examined the impact of your words?  Every time you tell a person to pray about it, how about you practice that yourself.  Every time you ask a person if they have been anointed for healing, ask yourself how that must sound.  Chances are very high that this survivor has been prayer over and anointed many times over...only to recognize that the statistics are true.  God can but seems not to work through instant healing of such diseases. 

Think for a moment how complicated mental illness is.  You can't just perform Open Brain Surgery!  Yet, we treat mental health survivors like their brain is not a vital part of the body.  It makes them less than human to have a broken brain.  Yet broken hearts, broken bodies, broken insides that result in the BIG C WORD, get mountains of understanding!!!!  Mention someone has cancer and every one flocks to show their support.  Mention someone has mental illness and the same people run full speed ahead in the opposite direction. They can't get away fast enough.   

Perhaps you are getting the picture.  I do hope so.  Glen and I have been speaking this message for years, yet few have listened.  We've been discarded as trouble makers, stirrers of strife, angry, bitter and washed up Christians.  I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.  For those who know us best, know the truth.  You don't have to take my word for it, just look at the lives of our children.  Make no mistake, we are speakers of truth, no matter who is listening.  Now, some famous people are starting to talk about what we have said.  Seems perhaps there is some validity to our words after all.  Evangelicals have gotten it wrong about mental illness and people are saying this out loud.  They are being heard...I'm glad about that, but I'd like my voice to be heard too. 

Every survivor of mental illness deserves to be heard!  Every story is valid and necessary for the growth of others.  Remember, no one is an island and the best way to help people get better is to talk about this      OUT LOUD!!!!!  Speak so people can hear.  Speak in a way they will listen.  Speak to those who do listen.  Speak with clarity.  Speak with conviction.  Speak because you deserve to speak and you deserve to be heard! 

This is the passionate message of advocacy.  Sharing our stories of hope and recovery dispels the lies and myths that have permeated our religious culture.  I'm sorry I have to keep mentioning this but that is the circle of influence Glen and I grew up in.  And it has caused us many mountains of pain.  It still does cause pain and so because of this, we speak.  We will fight every day to speak the truth, hoping that those with their heads in the sand will hear something that makes them take notice and change.

We can only hope to dispel the myth that if we just pray hard enough mental illness will just go away.  Meanwhile, we have herbs, medicines, and loads of treatment available and good people are suffering unnecessarily because people like you insist that your faulty religious opinion is right!!!! Wake up, get up, read up...and listen to the voices of those crying out in pain.  Listen to the survivors who are daring to share their stories.  It might surprise you as to what you can learn if you will listen!  

- Joyce Roseman


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