[This blog post is a “Two-Weeker”]
In the twenty-first century the subject of mental illness is finally beginning to be talked about openly, honestly and rationally. Many Twenty-First Century Christians have also taken the first step in ministering to people who struggle with mental illness. The first step all Christians need to make is: 1. TAKE OUR HEADS OUT OF THE BUSHES and acknowledge that mental illness is NOT demon-possession [See previous blog post: “Say What? The Devil You SAY…”]. After this very important first step, other steps need to follow in order for followers of Christ to minister Christ’s tender compassion for people who struggle with mental illness. People who struggle with mental illness include Christians who have suffered in silence for fear of being ridiculed and thought less of by their church family because of their illness. Now that we know what mental illness is NOT, we all, as fellow human beings, need to know what mental illness really IS and how to effectively and lovingly help those who need our acceptance, compassion and support. The next steps are:
2. UNDERSTAND THAT CLINICAL DEPRESSION AND OTHER FORMS OF MENTAL DISORDERS ARE ILLNESSES CAUSED BY CHEMICAL IMBALANCES IN THE BRAIN AND THEY ARE IN NEED OF MEDICAL INTERVENTION.
Carol Kivler writes in her book, Will I Ever Be the Same? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy): “No one is to blame for the illness. Depression is an illness like any other that affects anyone at any age, at any time. You can’t fix the depressed individual, although you can offer guidance, love and comfort. During the most severe episodes, it helps loved ones to remember it is the illness ‘talking’, not the person with the illness; especially when the depressed individual is especially irritable or agitated, mistrusting and paranoid. No one chooses depression and it can’t be turned on or off by will. Depression is not a punishment or an attitude, nor does it have a motive” [p. 94].
People with mental illness need to see a medical doctor, not a voodoo doctor. People with mental illness may need anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication(s) prescribed by a psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse or a licensed physician who is qualified to prescribe these medication(s). They do not need a witch doctor, arm-chair [unlicensed] counselor or psychic to give them illogical rituals, so they can get rid of their “negative karma.” People with mental illness who do not respond to medications may need other psychiatric treatments, such as Electroconvulsive Therapy [ECT], also known as “shock therapy,” done in a hospital under strict medical guidelines, in order to “reattach the neurotransmitters in the brain that somehow unattached and caused the depression” [Will I Ever Be the Same Again? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy) [p. 56]. They do not need a mystic to prescribe superstitious, unscientific, and nonsensical “healing“ techniques, such as carrying “healing” crystals or stones in their pocket or purse. People with mental illness may need a friend to exercise with them regularly to get the endorphins going [the body’s natural chemical “mood elevators”]
(The ABCs of Recovery from Mental Illness,” p. 13); not a priest to perform an exorcism to get rid of their “evil spirits” or the devil himself, nor do they need a self-proclaimed “faith healer” who says if they have “enough faith” they will be healed from their illness. People with mental illness may need talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional and be a part of a support group, in which there are people dealing with the same kind of challenges. They do not need a “friend” to scold them for their “lack of faith” and for not “believing” and “claiming” God’s promises. People with mental illness need a friend to pray nonjudgmental prayers with and for them; not a “friend” whose prayers make them feel guilty and ashamed for being a “failure” because they have an illness.
3. STOP GIVING “ROBO” RESPONSES: “Cheer up.” “It can’t be that bad.” “It’s all in your head.” “Who cares?” “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” “Life is hard; get used to it.” “You have to try to make the most of it.” “It’s your own fault.” “I understand [when you really don’t].” “It could be worse.” “You never think of anybody but yourself.” “Where is your faith?” “But you don’t look depressed.” “You just have to try harder.” “You should get out more.” “Everybody has problems.” “You think you got it bad!” “This too shall pass.”
Instead of these “robo” responses, it helps just be there for your friend and show that you care by responding to real needs: “I’m here for you.” “I’m here to listen.” “How may I help you?” “Would you like to take a walk?” “Would you like me to bring a meal and we can eat together?” “I will go to the doctor with you, if you would like me to.” “Would you like to go for a drive or to the movies?” and other verbal communication expressing wanting to help in tangible ways. Non-judgmental communication can really help someone know that someone really cares and wants to help in however way s/he can.
4. LISTEN MORE AND TALK LESS. “Know this, my beloved brothers [and sisters]: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to be angry; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” [James 1:19-20]. Sometimes, it’s okay not to say anything, but just being with the person who is struggling with a mental illness helps the person know that s/he is not alone in the struggle. The feeling of being alone can be very frightening.
5. LEARN ABOUT CLINICAL DEPRESSION AND OTHER FORMS OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND HOW TO BE A REAL HELP. A good start is to read the three books written by Carol A. Kivler and check out her websites:
“Will I Ever Be the Same Again? Transforming the Face of ECT (Shock Therapy)”
“Mental Health Recovery Boosters: How to Sustain Your Mental Wellness”
“The ABCs of Recovery from Mental Illness”
If you are a counselor or in any health or helping profession or have family and friends who are battling clinical depression or other forms of mental illness, these books and websites will help you help the people you serve in a Christ-like way. They are not specifically “Christian” books and websites, but Carol Kivler is a Christian and the Holy Spirit truly helps her to share Christ-like truth in a non-threatening non-proselytizing way. If you are struggling with clinical depression or any mental illness yourself, please know that you are not alone and there is help. This information may start you in the right direction in finding the help you need. Also, please talk to someone you trust and ask him/her to go to the doctor with you, so that the person can be an advocate for you and help you process information and make important decisions for yourself. It helps to have an extra pair of ears.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” [Matthew 5:7].
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in you brother’s [or sister’s] eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:1-3].
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly [or give yourselves to humble tasks]. Never be wise in your own sight” [Romans 12:15-16].
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” [Philippians 2:3-4].
“Bear one another’s burden’s, and so fulfill the law of Christ” [Galatians 6:2].
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you” [Ephesians 4:32].
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” [Colossians 3:12-14].
God has blessed me with a loving family at home and my church family. I will be forever grateful and thankful for their prayers of concern and the tangible ways they helped me during the darkest time of my life, when I was battling a nine-mouth bout with clinical depression. Thanks be to God for them all!
May the Peace and Joy of Christ Be Ours to Share with One Another Both Now and Forevermore! Amen.
If you haven’t already, go to YouTube to view Lydia’s Testimony 2015 and Lydia’s Testimony Part 2.
[Good News: Dr Don is back worshiping with us, after breaking his hip and being in the hospital and rehab for awhile!]