My wife reading in bed. And it wasn't because ...

My wife reading in bed. And it wasn’t because she was trying to get to sleep. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this excellent interview with Amy Simpson, who is a Christian mental health advocate and speaker. She has written a book called  Troubled Minds, a book to guide the Church in better understanding how to help those struggling with mental illness. Here is an excerpt from this interview done by   from her blog Christ and Pop Culture. The context is about Rick Warren‘s son who committed suicide recently due to a depressive illness. Rick Warren is the author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life:

Pastor Warren’s statement indicated that “only those closest” to the family knew of his son’s story and struggle. Why do people’s struggles with mental illness continue to be hidden and is this even more the case in the Church context?

Mental illness is stigmatized in our culture. We carry old, superstitious ideas about it. People fear mental illness and marginalize those with mental illnesses in a way they don’t treat people affected by other forms of disease. We tend to treat mental illness as either a source of entertainment, subject matter for jokes, a source for romantic notions, or something to be terrified of. We don’t tend to think of mental illness as what it is—that is, illness with biological and environmental causes just like a lot of other diseases. We tend to think that if someone has a mental illness or receives treatment for mental health, that person is somehow compromised or perhaps unable to live a productive life.

Within the Church, we add our own layers of stigma. Many churches assume all mental illness is spiritual in nature and reflects a spiritual weakness or lack of faith. Some churches assume all mental illness is caused by spiritual forces like demon possession and ignore the overwhelming evidence for the biological factors involved. Some churches assume mental illness is meted out as punishment for sin and anyone who exhibits an ongoing problem with mental illness must have an ongoing problem with sin that’s the real cause. So they point fingers at suffering people and blame them for their illnesses. Some church people are simply so horrified and offended by the idea that mental illness could happen to them and their own families, they keep their distance. They marginalize people with mental illness to make themselves feel better, convincing themselves they’re different and it couldn’t happen to them.

In this kind of environment, who wants to speak up and admit to mental illness if it means being kicked out of the church, being treated like a second-class or third-class citizen, or being subject to insistence that the church can pray the problem away or that the solution is found in simply having more faith or praying more? Rather than subject themselves to this kind of treatment, most people would prefer to stay silent. Many people are also afraid of risk to their jobs, their relationships, and their reputations—so they keep quiet.

This is a great tragedy made even more tragic by the reality that in any given year, more than 25 percent of adults in the United States suffer from a diagnosable mental illness of some kind.

You can read the rest of this at:

www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/04/overcoming-mental-illness-stigma-in-the-church-an-interview-with-amy-simpson

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