The Church and Mental Health

Mental health is a subject the church needs to address and not sweep under the rug any longer. It's not a sin to suffer from a mental illness. But it is a sin when we ignore those who are suffering.


Mental health is a subject the church needs to address and not sweep under the rug any longer. It's not a sin to suffer from a mental illness. But it is a sin when we ignore those who are suffering. 

Depression and mental health have become a subject we hear more about now days.

Recently I read an article about schools including mental health days as sick days. As I was reading, I thought back to my school days and remember the stress and anxiety I had to work through. It wasn’t easy, things in my life suffered because of it. A mental health day would have been a blessing. I think it is a great idea for students to be offered this option, but when it is a necessity. It should never be abused. If schools are seeing mental health as a serious matter, why does the church not?

I don’t remember hearing anything from the pulpit while growing up about depression and mental issues. There were some issues within the church, and they were kept quiet. The man who killed himself on the front lawn had life long issues and it was never talked about afterwards. The organist was quietly sent away, nothing ever said. It was as if mental issues were taboo and not talked about.

It wasn’t until I was a young adult attending a new church when I first heard negative statements like “they have sin in their life”, “they are not spending time in God’s Word”, “it’s a sin to seek help”, and “it’s a sin to take medication”. These statements came from many men who believe(d) mental illness resulted from sin and not being close to the Lord.
These are the men who believe in Nouthetic counseling. In other words, Biblical counseling. Please do not misunderstand what I’m trying to say; there is a time and a place for Biblical counseling, but it is not a means for mental health. As I said before mental health is real. The brain is a living organ, just like the liver and heart, it too can malfunction. 

Doctors are learning new things all the time about the brain. Psychiatrists have special training to diagnose depression and other mental issues. Pastors and most Christian counselors do not have this training. How can they help someone who is suffering? Reading the Bible and spending time with God every day is the best thing a Christ follower can do, but it is not what heals depression.
The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour. ” - Charles Spurgeon

COME AS YOU ARE, YOU’LL BE ACCEPTED

Come as you are is something many churches began boasting over the past few years. But do they mean it? 

For some, it was about attire and attitude/atmosphere. For others it was about coming while continuing in sin and being accepted. 

But when they said, come as you are, would this include all the brokenness people experience? The brokenness of mental health issues? Probably not. After all, the broken mind is a hard thing to understand. It would take time away from the “good things” going on in the church.


Until we experience firsthand the effects of depression, it is hard for us to understand what a sufferer goes through. Our words and actions can do more harm than good when dealing with one who suffers. 

Depression is a not a sin. It is not a sin to seek medical help. It is not a sin to take prescribed medications to help with the issues. No pastor or teacher should ever say otherwise.

Instead of saying words that hurt, why not try to learn more about what one is dealing with? Be a listening ear if there is ever an opportunity. Be encouraging in seeking help, stop brushing mental illness under the rug.

For many, they are suffering quietly because they are fearful of what their church family thinks and says.


I’ll never forget the picture of the beautiful pastor’s wife. She was beautiful, always had been. But that picture I will never forget. While trying to look happy with her family, there in her eyes you could tell she was suffering. She suffered quietly until she could no longer take it.
Now that I think back on the times I was with her, she had a mask on every time she was at church. The night I asked her a question regarding the women’s ministry, she snapped at me in front of others and quickly left with tears rolling down her cheeks. It hurt me because I had never seen that side of her and I was almost embarrassed for her because there were other women around to witness the ordeal. I wish I would have known what she was going through.

HOW THE CHURCH CAN HELP THOSE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

Be open about mental health –
  • openly pray for sufferers
  • refer to mental health in sermons
  • read and recommend books and articles
  • host a specialist for a meeting on mental health
Don’t shame or ostracize the families –
  • Families need not hear how their loved one has been lost to hell because of suicide, if the church believes this. They need to hear about God’s love and how the church love’s them and are there for them.
  • Families need to be included and welcomed to all services and events. They should not feel the need to look for a new church home.
    Refocus on the Bible -
    • Stop focusing on sin, morality, and righteous living in every sermon.
    • Throughout the Bible there are many stories where great mean dealt with low points in their lives. Moses (Numbers 11:14-15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4), Job (Job 3), David (Psalm 69), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14-18), Jonah (Jonah 4), Judas Iscariot, one who was close enough to Jesus to kiss, was overcome with guilt and pain. (Matthew 27:3-5) Even Jesus was anguished over what was set before Him. (Matthew 14:34-36, Luke 22:44)
    Acknowledge depression and mental health may be life long battles.
    • It takes more than one office visit and one prescription to heal someone.
    • They can’t just “snap out of it.”
    • Encouragement to keep seeking help is necessary.


    DEPRESSION AND MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT PRAYER AND FAITH.


    Just like you wouldn’t tell someone with Heart Disease or Cancer to “just pray about it”, “ you have to be strong”, or “give it to God”, don’t tell someone with depression or other mental illness to “just pray about it”, “be strong”, or “give it to God”. 

    It takes a strong person to admit they need help and seek it. It takes an even stronger person to reach out and help those in their time of weakness.
    Helpful Church Resources:
    Hope For Mental Health – started by Rick and Kay Warren
    Grace Alliance
    Fresh Hope for Mental Health
    National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI)
    If you missed my other posts on the subject of Mental Illness, you may want to read my other posts.
    If you found this helpful, will you share it with others?


    6 comments

    1. Oh thank you for writing this, Lori. I find it alarming how the church embraces so many things, but accepting mental illness is not on their radar. Being in the south, you just don't hear of churches being open about this. You're right on the subject as being taboo. Such a shame, as Jesus loves those who suffer and so should we.

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      1. It is very much alarming, Denise. Thank you for your support on this matter.

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    2. I suffer from depression and don't feel comfortable or welcomed at the church. Thank you for sharing how the church needs to address this problem with many of their parishioners.

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      1. I'm sorry to hear this, Marla. If I could be of any help, please email me @ lori at frogslilypad.net

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    3. I suffer from major depression. I have tried almost everything. I have had very little relief and in fact it has gotten worse. I have witnessed extremely ignorant comments from Sunday school teachers, speakers etc. None of them held any specialized degrees like M.D., or PsychD. They were most unqualified to be uttering a word on mental health. I have even spoken to numerous Christians who have told me that suicide is extremely selfish. While I wholeheartedly agree it is selfish; I do not think that a believer contemplating suicide is capable of even thinking about this. I am very thankful that I no longer attend a church that holds to the archaic beliefs that mental illness is not real. I have been in several churches that will not talk about mental illness or acknowledge it even exists. Praise God that I am now in a wonderful church that realizes it is a physical disease just like cancer or diabetes.

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      1. Helen, I am sorry you are dealing with this. Sadly, I have said something about being selfish, but later thought about how a person is not thinking correctly. It is a sad thing when the church refuses to accept mental illness. I'm so thankful you have a church home who loves and accepts you - all of you.

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