What are the most common misconceptions and myths about mental health in the Christian community?
In this blog post, we tackle 7 of the most common misconceptions in the Christian community. We hope that those reading will encourage each other to create a more supportive environment to those suffering from mental illnesses and to help their brothers and sisters get the help they need.
Myth #1: Depression is a sign of weak faith.
Depression is a general word to indicate clinical depression, major depression, dysthymia, persistent and depressive disorder. There are a lot of different categories within the umbrella of depressive illnesses. Depression is a clinical illness, a psychiatric medical problem, and should not be equated with a faith issue. This statement is therefore erroneous and therefore a stigma.
Many Christians are afraid of seeking help for their depression because they think it means having little faith in God. However, at the end of the day, you’ve either accepted Jesus as your Savior or you have not accepted him. Christians, even those with strong faith, may undergo various hardship in their lives that can lead to depression. Take Job for example, who went through the most unbearable types of hardship – including depression – but had immense trust and faith in God throughout.
Myth #2: I’m struggling with major depression or anxiety. God must not love me.
Many verses in the Bible refute this. Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This verse tells us that God sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins even when we were sinners and enemies of God. While we were fundamentally separated from God, He still loved us and ensured a path to our salvation. He would never stop loving us, even if we are struggling with an illness like depression and anxiety. God’s love for us is constant, unwavering and unchanging.
Myth #3: If I go to a secular counselor or psychologist, I might start doubting my faith.
This is a fear and misconception that some patients and their families have expressed. However if you fear that your therapy session or a secular psychologist can shake your faith, then my challenge for you is to try and deepen your understanding about the gospel. If you are truly scared about losing your faith, then learn more about the security you have in Christ.
Myth #4: If you seek psychiatric medication or therapy, you’re not really trusting in God.
Would you not go to the emergency room if you have a heart attack? Would you not go to the hospital if you broke your leg, and you cannot walk anymore? We have so much stigma against mental illnesses but won’t blink an eye to get professional help when it comes to other parts of the body. Mental illnesses are medical and pertain to the brain and how your neurotransmitters are functioning. Therefore your brain also requires medical attention. It is necessary to get the right treatment when you are suffering from a neurological or psychiatric illness.
The Bible also serves us another great reminder from Proverbs 12:15: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”
Myth #5: My church community won’t understand my mental health needs.
When someone says this, perhaps they may have experienced being ostracized or misunderstood by their church community. When we meet someone who shares that they have been ostracized or judged by their church community, we share with them that Jesus is with them right now, and to try to pray for their church leaders rather than remain disappointed. Perhaps you could try and find one Christian brother or sister to share your struggles with.
If you are a leader within your congregation, there are ways to make sure your community is inclusive and supportive to those suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. You could talk about mental illness in your sermons, prayer groups, classes, and adult forums. You can remind your fellow brothers and sisters that it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. Perhaps you could start a support group for people struggling with mental health and their families so that they do not feel alone or ostracized.
Myth #6: The mental health problems I’m experiencing today must mean I lived a bad life. I’m being punished for some unforgivable sign.
In this case the Bible also refutes this. Romans 8:1-2 states: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
You are not being punished for an unforgivable sin. You must believe in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. He even said in his final words “It is finished.” It meant that the work he came to the world for – to save us from sin – was finished as soon as he died on the cross. The hardship and illnesses someone may be experiencing today is not a direct punishment. If there is such a thing where depression or a mental illness is a consequence of a certain behavior, one clear example is the constant use of drugs and alcohol.
Studies show that substance abuse is inextricably linked to depression and can exacerbate other mental illnesses. However, mental illness is not a direct consequence or punishment by God for some sin you committed years ago.
Myth #7: Maybe God will heal me if I commit my life to Jesus more.
In the end, this statement is related to a stigma against accepting medical treatment. Many of our Christian patients and/or their families were reluctant to seek medical treatment for mental illnesses because they thought they could just do more Christian acts. At the end of the day, this reflects a belief in a transactional relationship between the believer and God: “If I do this more, will you heal me? If I do this, will you heal my daughter?” We cannot forget that God is not a “quid pro quo” type of God – He does not owe us anything nor will He ever owe us anything. He already gave us a path to salvation and His love despite how undeserving we are.
Our salvation is not merit-based; our blessings on earth are not earned by our spiritual behaviors and lifestyle. These are simply blessings bestowed upon us by God. In the end, we commit our lives to Jesus because we recognize what God has done for us. We want to know more of who He is and what His salvation means, to experience His promises becoming more real in our lives. Our motive is not because we want Him to do something for us, like some genie in a bottle.
Do you find yourself succumbing to negative thought patterns? We are licensed psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and psychotherapists that believe in integrating the Gospel message into mental health treatment and counseling, as well as reducing the stigma and prevalence of mental health disorders. Contact us now to learn more about treatments, or just to receive a brief consultation about the need for treatment.
Found this post useful? Please consider donating to Oak Health Foundation, which is a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to providing resources regarding holistic mental healthcare and subsidized treatment for those in need.