Many churches are not equipped to handle the unique needs of people who struggle with mental illness. Consequently, many have chosen to leave. Many of them shared their stories on a recent Reddit thread, and the Christian Post summarized what they said:
In a recent discussion sparked by a rant in a subreddit of more than 40,000 anonymous former Christians, many shared stories about how they were forced to suffer as their evangelical churches and family members urged them to pray away conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and ADD before they were finally able to get help. Some, like one critic identified as just reib0t in the discussion, never got the help they needed until they were adults.
“I am 30 and was recently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder,” the former Christian began.
“As a TEENAGER I said to the Christian I looked up to, ‘Hey, I hear voices and see shadow people everywhere, also I want to kill myself.’ And I was told it was just ‘spiritual warfare’ and Satan fighting for my soul. I was told to NOT seek therapy because therapists work for the devil to drive people away from the Lord,” the ex-Christian wrote.
“I believed it easily because of the nature of my illness. He downplayed and contorted my illness so badly that even after I stopped believing in God, it took me years to get into therapy and get treatment. My life spiraled into drug abuse to cope, lost job after lost job, and my 20s wasted in pain,” the person wrote.
The individual explained that since they decided to get professional help, their life has changed for the better.
Christians shouldn’t have to choose between their faith and mental health treatment, but many were taught to think that the latter somehow contradicts the former. Yet many of those same Christians seek medical treatment for physical conditions without any conflict. When it’s a mental illness, on the other hand, there’s a stigma that suggests Satan has something to do with it and only a spiritual solution can resolve the problem.
As Christians with mental health illness struggle to find help from churches, research also suggests that the need for mental help is not just among the laity. Many pastors struggling with reconciling their mental illness with their faith have turned to suicide because they feel they have nowhere else to turn.
I shouldn’t have to say this in 2019, but I’ll do it anyway: There is nothing shameful about having a mental illness. Seeking treatment for a disorder like schizophrenia shouldn’t be any more controversial than seeking treatment for bronchitis. More pastors need to say as much to their congregations.
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