- Written by Crystal Anniss
Some common signs of mental illness are: Social withdrawal, difficulty relating normally with others, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, mood swings, and a progressive inability to cope with life. We can attempt to self-diagnose ourselves and loved ones, but a mental illness must be identified by a medical provider.
Unfortunately, there are situations where people pray, fast, attend church, bible studies, and Sunday devotions, but still struggle with a mental disorder. Often, individuals with a mental disorder need to pursue additional treatment options. This does not render the word of God less ‘powerful and effective’; the word of God is irreplaceable in the lives of every Christian. God has equipped men and women in this area and we shouldn’t feel bad about seeking both spiritual and professional help. In Hebrews 4: 15 it says we have a “high priest who is able to empathize with our weakness,” which indicates that God does empathise with our suffering.
Unlike a spiritual struggle, mental illness does not have a quick fix. Often individuals with mental illness battle for years, trying different medications and dosages, counsellors, psychiatrists etc. They may be functioning but still find themselves with an illness that plagues them. We must be careful not to assume these symptoms can easily be resolved. Loving someone with mental illness requires the same type of patient love Christ has for us.
Unfortunately, there is still a large stigma associated with mental illness. This may, in part, be due to our lack of understanding of the various types of mental illness and treatment options. When talking about mental illness, the temptation is to immediately jump to solutions. You need more faith. You need more prayer. You need to fast. We need to pray against Satan. There are SO many things we just can’t understand or relate to regarding mental illness and how we can actually help. This explains why a person may feel more comfortable requesting prayer for a spiritual struggle than Depression, Bipolar disorder or PTSD. Most would rather pray for strength and guidance instead of the illness first hand. It is not an area that many individuals feel comfortable admitting to or requesting help for. Christ, however, has called believers to do the following: We are to provide a welcoming atmosphere, destroy stigmas, and humbly serve those suffering with mental illness and their loved ones. With one in four adults struggling with mental illness each year, there's no doubt that there are people in our churches who desperately need love and support.
God can redeem mental illness.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” - 2 Corinthians 3: 1-7
So, with our sufferings and hurt, we should give ourselves wholeheartedly to God who comforts and protects us. With this comfort from God, we can comfort those suffering with mental illness.
The church is almost always the first place people go when they need help, including help with symptoms of mental illness. So how can we help? Talk. Talk openly about it. Demonise the stigma around “mental illness.” Acknowledge your fears. Many of our first reactions to mental illness are based in fear, usually because we're nervous about uncomfortable conversations or situations we don't know how to handle. It's important to acknowledge these fears and to learn to separate legitimate fear from irrational fear. Be encouraging and listen. Encourage him or her in our conversations. Listen carefully. Don’t act shocked with their responses and expect anti-social behaviour. Let them know you care. And lastly, advise them to seek professional help if needed. This isn’t an easy way out. By seeking medical help they can receive the treatment needed to live a somewhat normal life whether it be through medication, counselling or even group therapy.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” - 3 John 1:2
Thanks for reading folks.