My Take: How churches can respond to mental illness
April 7th, 2013
02:55 PM ET

My Take: How churches can respond to mental illness

Editor’s Note: Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, an evangelical research organization. He blogs at edstetzer.com and his most recent book is "Subversive Kingdom."

By Ed Stetzer, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The first time I dealt with mental illness in church was with a man named Jim. I was young and idealistic - a new pastor serving in upstate New York. Jim was a godsend to us. He wanted to help, and his energy was immeasurable. He'd visit with me, sing spontaneously, pray regularly and was always ready to help.

Until he was gone.

For days and sometimes weeks at a time, he would struggle with darkness and depression. During this time, he would withdraw from societal interaction and do practically nothing but read Psalms and pray for hours on end. I later learned that this behavior is symptomatic of what is often called bipolar disorder or, in years before, manic depression.

I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life.

As a young pastor unacquainted with how to deal with these events, I found myself searching for answers. I realized two things:

First, people with mental illness are often attracted to religion and the church, either to receive help in a safe environment or to live out the worst impulses of their mental illness.

Second, most congregations, sadly, have few resources for help.

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This weekend, we learned of the death of Rick and Kay Warren's son Matthew. Those of us who know the Warrens know how they have anguished over their son's illness, seeking to keep a low profile even as Rick penned the best-selling devotional, "The Purpose Driven Life." This weekend, Matthew took his own life - putting the issue of mental illness front and center again.

Matthew had the best medical care available, a loving church that cared for him and his family, and parents who loved and prayed for him. Yet, that could not keep Matthew with us.

Mental illness is incredibly destructive, and the end result is not always ours to determine.

Matthew's life was not a waste and, yes, every day had a purpose. His pain is over now, but perhaps his life and death will remind us all of the reality of mental illness and inspire people of faith to greater awareness and action.

So, what can we do as people of faith to address issues of mental illness?

1. Churches need to stop hiding mental illness.

So often in a congregation, we like to pretend this is not a real issue because we have such a difficult time understanding it. We stick our heads in the sand, add the person to the prayer list and continue on ministering to the “normal” people. But it’s real, and it isn’t going away. In 2009, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index showed 17% of respondents as having been diagnosed with depression. There are people in the pews every week - ministers, too - struggling with mental illness or depression, and we need to recognize this.

2. The congregation should be a safe place for those who struggle.

We are often afraid of mental illness and the symptoms that come with it. As a result, we don’t know what to do with our own level of discomfort and our fears for safety, or we just don’t want to be inconvenienced.

A study from Baylor University indicates “that while help from the church with depression and mental illness was the second priority of families with mental illness, it ranked 42nd on the list of requests from families that did not have a family member with mental illness.” This is a real need among our congregations, one that we absolutely cannot ignore or expect to go away. People of faith know that God has freed them to love others, and that love extends to everyone, even (and sometimes especially) those we don’t understand.

3. We should not be afraid of medicine.

I realize this can be a heated debate. I also recognize that medication must be handled with care - as it should with any condition. But many mental health issues are physiological. Counseling will naturally be a part of treatment. But if we are not afraid to put a cast on a broken bone, then why are we ashamed of a balanced plan to treat mental illness that might include medication to stabilize possible chemical imbalances? Christians get cancer, and they deal with mental illness.

We’ve long seen the value in the medical treatment of cancer. It’s time for Christians to affirm the value of medical treatment for mental illness as well.

4. We need to end the shame.

I saw it in my own family. Suicide has struck our family more than once, making the news where we wished it did not. When my aunt was arrested for gun smuggling to Ireland, our family did not think of this as an issue of Irish revolution. She was brilliant, a lawyer and a doctor, but mentally ill. Her involvement in the Irish "revolution" was one in a long line of bad choices driven by her illness and eventually led to her suicide.

Yet, it was hard to talk of these things. They had to be “handled in the dark” because “no one could know.” I love my family. But shame was something that was difficult to avoid in every case.

Let’s be honest. These are typically delicate situations. And we want to protect the privacy and dignity of the people we love, particularly when they are behaving in ways that might draw negative attention. But compassion and care can go a long way in helping people know they don’t have to hide.

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Why should this be of concern to people of faith? Simply put, there is no place where Americans are more connected and no place where grace is more expected than the church.

Mental illness has nothing to do with you or your family’s beliefs, but the greater community that holds those beliefs can be key to the lifelong process of dealing with mental illness. Most research points to the fact that more religious people tend to be healthier, both physically and mentally, but religious activities do not remove people of faith from sickness of either kind.

Christians believe the church is the body of Christ—the hands and feet of Jesus—and that means going into the darkest places and the toughest situations to bring light. It means walking with those who are suffering, no matter what the suffering looks like.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Stetzer.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church

soundoff (873 Responses)
  1. Andrew Pollner

    I think churches can be very, very helpful to people with Mental Illness. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are helpful in treatment but only to a certain degree. Day Treatment programs can be some of the most depressing places a person can be in depending on how good or bad the Day Treatment program is.

    A person with Mental Illness can get good structure from there Church by being active and doing lots of fellowship activities. If a congregation is welcoming it could be very, very beneficial. There are a lot of people with psychiatric problems who think there life is over once they have a Mental Illness. NAMI-FAMILYA constantly works against the stigma against Mental Illness. Back in 2008 I was on a panel for a Clergy conference to discuss how Clergy can help people and families to cope with Mental Illness

    April 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Being in the community is important for most struggling with mental illnesses and a church can offer a strong community if it has already been selected carefully to match that person's needs. But I think many churches could do more in both accepting the reality and universality of mental illness and in helping bridge the gap -proactively – between the church and community resources.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • bspurloc

      u mean how they HELP the gay people?

      April 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  2. Roger

    Yes, people who are mentally ill can and have been saved. Mental illness is one that starts with early childhood and either is dormant for a long time or becomes evident early. Mine was early in my life. I had a nervous breakdown/episode when I was 17 years of age. Had major burnout at age 22 with accompanying depression. Been off balance my whole entire life. I grew up in the First Baptist Church in my hometown so I was exposed to some sort of Bible Doctrine at an early age. I am totally broke now and living in my parents' house by myself. It is very trying for me to try to pay the bills and such since I have no employment. BUT....the God Son/Jesus Christ will prevail in his intent. God the Father has the perfect plan. I go with it.

    April 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • bspurloc

      churches feed on mental illness as the mentally ill will not question them and welcome their "HELP" with open hands... however the minute u question their imaginary almighty being the "HELP" will end.

      April 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  3. lngtrmthnkr

    I was in a church,I had depression issues that were painful and debilitating.The congregation was loving to me but totally unable to understand or help . I went through many years of the roller coast ride of manic depression. I finally decided that enough is enough and I got help.It was a long road to a comfortable place where I could enjoy life. It was not easy and not fast, but with the help of several good therapists and a little medication I came to a place of peace and happiness.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • JJ

      Glad you got real help instead of relying on people simply sending good thoughts your way.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:57 pm |
    • Chad

      Glad to hear you are doing better, hope your bad experience in church hasnt deceived you into thinking Jesus Christ doesnt exist..

      April 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • Saraswati

      This is where I think churches could step in in much the same way colleges as a community do. The church can provide resource listing and brochures for services and be active in encouraging people to seek help, If possible, they can offer some financial resources and support or assistance groups. churches are community groups and would be at there best by focussing on helping their community and recognizing that the members often are struggling just like others in the world.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • bspurloc

      I am thinking due to u r a heretic the word of god and his prayers were being repelled. maybe an exorcism or 6 would relieve u of this daemon

      April 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
  4. lol??

    "......................Christians believe the church is the body of Christ—the hands and feet of Jesus—.............."
    What's the name of the bride? Wouldn't want to go to the wrong wedding.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Irony – lol?? posting on a story about mental illness. The internet has won.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      I see you find fault with everyone and everything. What should make you free and happy clearly doesn't. Why bother?

      April 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • dzp

      you don't make any sense. you probably have mental disease

      April 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • Austin


      April 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
    • Austin


      April 7, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • JWT

      There is nothing about demonic evil in any newspaper I have read in the past 50 years.It must be a made up fictional concept/

      April 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
    • lol??

      Well Austin, you're the only Christian to take a stab at an answer. ........"Jhn 16:12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." So the Holy Spirit came, and with Paul, God explained the many things. He put a curse on any other gospel. Churches and these blogs are dangerous places to get doctrine.

      April 8, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Austin

      Did I get the answer right or should i do some more home work?

      I heard someone call it the "heavenly mother" but I assumed that was off.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:13 am |
    • lol??

      Austin, keep your name off any church roll. Meet with your brethren in a park, a home, a restaurant, etc. There are 6 OT kingdoms and we're at the time of 6 NT kingdoms.Next on the agenda is a slaughter of the Christians. Give yourself a fighting chance. Bullying men with socialistic Sodominiam demobocracy makes perfect sense if your name is Stanley Dunham and you're a commie mommie.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Bullying men with socialistic Sodominiam demobocracy makes perfect sense if your name is Stanley Dunham and you're a commie mommie. "
      If you're not seeing a whole team of therapists, you should be.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • lol??

      Mat 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

      Potter, reformed clay, fig tree, grafting, MUST be born again, Jew first then Greek, and on and on. God is Spirit, He wants a spiritual bride, named Israel. He's got it. Finished.

      April 8, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • bspurloc

      "I see you find fault with everyone and everything." odd
      He who does not find fault with a faerie tale is borderline mentally ill themselves.
      a Mammals egg REQUIRES fertilization from a Males pollywog. if a Mammal rises after being dead they either werent dead or they are a Zombie. facts. that which goes against these facts is at fault, those who do not find fault with that r mentally ill

      April 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
  5. JJ

    Indoctrinating someone who is mentally ill into a religion/cult is like throwing gasoline onto a fire.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Austin

      are you sure someone who is mentally ill should not understand spiritual warfare or demonic oppression?

      April 7, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
    • JWT

      They have no need to know any of that Austin.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      If they are mentally ill, and the symptoms go away after treatment, then there's your answer, Austin. Are you suggesting mentally ill people shouldn't seek medical treatment?

      April 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Austin

      what about people on drugs, do they need to know that they are opening the doorway to demonic evil?

      April 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • JWT

      Demonic evil – never heard of such a thing. What drugs are you talking about ?

      April 7, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Austin

      Read the news paper and find out.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      So....you think people who take anti-depressants are opening themselves up to demonic forces? C'mon, Austin.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
    • JWT

      I've never seen anything about demonic evil in a newspaper Austin. A google search relays none as well.

      Again what drugs are you talking about ?

      April 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • marie

      I think it is very likely that we'll be reading about Austin in the newspaper one day soon.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      When the author wrote....."people with mental illness are often attracted to religion and the church, either to receive help in a safe environment or to live out the worst impulses of their mental illness."

      he was talking about you....get mental help....please

      April 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm |
    • Austin

      Mrs Peppernot.... no I was responding to the comment about gasoline on fire.

      the things that people do when on drugs is clearly an insight to the opening of the door to evil .. I am not even going to waste my time on your ignorance. what you cant see, WILL hurt you.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Austin

      blessed are the cheesemakers,

      the great desire of your heart is to pawn off my honest testimony about the sovereign voice of God as delusion. I had another mocker earlier today state that my comment about evasive exploitation "was a copied idea", when I am only describing people like you who deny God at all costs and at the lowest levels when ever necessary to appease your disgruntled att.itude toward spiritual life.

      Your spiritually dead att.itude toward God is one that will bring on the vengeance of God if you never repent. I have experienced spiritual revelation, and you are darn right that it is a great reason for me to set you straight. God is merciful.

      Repent. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • JWT

      Sounds like more baseless proxy threats cheese. I'd worry a lot more about a mosquito with west nile.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • marie

      Hey Austin – I'm crushing your head!


      April 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      There are no demons or spiritual warfare. There is nothing honest about your testimony. You are one of the most delusional people I have ever interacted with which is why I encourge you to seek professional help.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Austin

      Cheese maker.............and you also think that religion is a mechanical self help, and you have no experience with the authentic ministry the Holy spirit, which is the only born again miracle and authentic road that leads to God, who same the atoning God Man,. He is Risen

      Jehovah Shammah. Our Lord is There!

      April 7, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
    • marie

      Where, Austin?? Where??

      April 7, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      The only thing you have demonstrated is that you are delusional and a member of a cult.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      drugs open the door to demonic possession?

      which drugs?

      April 8, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • sam stone

      Austin: Do you take aspirin? Do you take any drugs?

      April 8, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • sam stone

      Austin: Your god is a vindictive, petty pr1ck, and you are nothing but a snivelling sycophant. fvck off, boy

      April 8, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • bspurloc

      Amen. mentally ill are the most susceptible to that which makes no sense

      April 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  6. Kona

    Only now, via the tools of modern science, do some religious people recognize mental illness as just that without attaching some pseudo-spiritual interpretation to it. A person who may have been demon-possessed in the days of Jesus may simply have experienced schizophrenia. Had someone "cured" them with anti-psychotic meds, they would've been regarded as a miracle-worker or perhaps a dark conjurer themselves.

    I suspect those involved in religious groups, particularly fundamentalist evangelical groups, will still cling to this notion that a deity with special, superhuman powers will heal them. Just send $19.95 to.......

    April 7, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

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      April 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm |
    • Austin

      #9 the cat dream. I had a cat at my house that had shown up and it was the only time i had seen it. , that night i dreamed that a demonic voice sang to me which inverted my body and then the same cat, covered in blood, ran below me as I was hanging upside down.

      I woke up and the cat was dead in the highway, 550 feet from my house.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I dreamed that Michael Caine saved me from a shark by diverting it into a canal at a water park where I was swimming. Five years later I STILL haven't been killed by a shark at a water park. It's a miracle... or maybe Michael Caine is god.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  7. a slozomby

    "First, people with mental illness are often attracted to religion and the church, " hey you said it not me.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • live4grace

      That's right ... because at least there's a prayer that someone might care.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Witch Doctors care too....

      April 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have felt for years that in so much of the church we "shoot our wounded" (legalism and shame instead of the gospel of grace). The gospel and medication have helped me so much with my own depression, but one of my adult children has bipolar disorder and it has been a hard, hard road. I appreciate the Warrens' openness and grieve with them.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • willremainundefined

      ....and the churches more often than not will keep right on shooting their wounded. This is simply a showing out because Rick Warren is Rick Warren. It will be old news and the biggest majority of "Christians" will go right back to shunning anyone who doesn't fit within their neat and tidy image. It's good to hope, it's great to speak out, but deep down the majority of churches don't want mentally ill people anywhere near their church, or them. And they go to great lengths to make sure of that.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  9. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    How churches can respond to mental illness

    Blame it on demons....

    April 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm |
    • seance


      April 7, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • marie

      Geez – what people will do for a few chicken nuggets.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      A video showing "demonic possession". Videos are NEVER faked and always can be trusted as being completely factual.

      You are a dishonest dou.che.

      April 7, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  10. biggles

    My mother was mentally ill and her faith saved and transformed her life.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Eva

      How so, biggles?

      April 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
    • Paco

      Gee, Eva. You appy cross directly to forehead, and pray very, VERY much.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      biggles, Amen.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
    • WhenCowsAttack

      My mother had paranoid schizophrenia. She was a devout Southern baptist woman who never had a cross word for me or anybody else. Truly a gentle soul.

      When she had psychotic breaks, she truly believed she was being possessed by the devil. I remember being 5 or 6 years old and seeing her laying in the front yard clutching a statue of the Virgin Mary, telling me quietly over and over to go to the neighbors, go to the neighbors, go to the neighbors and take the dog. The neighbors took me in very kindly- obviously a prearranged ordeal. Sat me in front of some cartoons and fed me. Then maybe Mom would be gone for a while, in another mental health facility until deemed well enough to come home. I remember going to the clinic and seeing her in a bed, in restraints.

      She died of a particularly painful form of bone marrow cancer when I was 10.

      Her faith saved her from neither.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Austin

      John 14:17 – [Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

      John 14:16-17 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (Read More...)

      April 7, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Austin

      "her faith saved her from neither"

      ok, well we didn't expect it to. Are there consequences from the fall? That is evidence for sin that we live with. Cancer......

      Isaiah the Prophet, was he not in two pieces after they sawed him in half? Did his faith save him from persecution? If our faith leaves the door open to persecution, which we are promised, then what would that say about natural physical and genetic effects of the fallen flesh? Do we exploit the idea of faith because we have diseases? Is Christ the minister of sin? Certainly not.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
  11. gluonspring

    Imagine a world where those with 20/200 vision were told to simply "get your act together and see straight", and you'll have a pretty good picture of what it's like for those who suffer from some level of mental illness. It's completely absurd. No one thinks it is odd that 75% of Americans wear some kind of corrective lens for their eyes, yet people are scandalized that millions of Americans take psychoactive drugs. The brain is obviously more complex than the eye, which means that there are more ways for a brain to go wrong than an eye. We should expect more mental illness than sight impairment, but we actually expect less and demand of those with mental illness that they simply will it away.

    I think churches are especially bad at acknowledging mental illness because it goes against the free will doctrines of many churches. Many churches insist that we are the absolute masters of our choices, and by extension, our feelings. If you have mental problems, it is because you have failed to trust God, failed to hand over your life to God, have made bad choices. This doctrinal barrier makes many churches structurally incapable of properly acknowledging mental illness for what it is. Not all, of course. But this was definitely the case in the church I grew up in. If someone admitted they took anti-depressants in the church I grew up in, that was as much as saying you didn't believe in Jesus.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
    • willremainundefined

      You nailed it with your comments here, gluonspring. More often than not, churches and Christians not only treat people with mental illness like lesser humans, but like their "real problem" is unresolved sin, a character flaw, or other forms of "fleshly weakness." Until the "church" gets off it's self righteous hi horse and pulls it's proverbial head out of the sand, those with mental illness seeking solace within the walls of a church will continue to be treated like modern day lepers.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • exRed

      Well said, gluonspring. I had the same experience in the church I grew up in. Mental illness was a sign that you didn't love god enough.

      April 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  12. Deez

    People do good things. Sometime they, coincidentally, do good things under the veil of the church. It shouldn't take away from people's common goal of helping people... or make a "church" something special.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  13. helensadornmentsblog

    My mother was mentally ill and I can remember a group of Christians saying she would be OK if she just believed in God. This, of course, is just how churches should not handle mental illness. My mother did believe in God but she also had schizophrenia and it was life shattering. She passed many years ago and the further I get from this point in my life, the better my life becomes. Mental Illness is really hard on the sufferer and on anyone who loves them.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:04 pm |
  14. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    It must be unnerving to a pastor, or other religious caregiver, to watch everything that defines a person drop away due to entirely natural causes. I had in mind schizophrenics who become increasingly like automatons, no personality left, but dementia comes to mind: the person who has forgotten his own name, even more so anything about his relationship with his God. If out of some brain events, neurochemical or physical damage, a person actually loses belief in God, denies God, or perhaps can't even understand the concept of belief in God, and lives for years in such a state, what hope do Christians hold out for that person, believing as they do in the supreme necessity for belief in the saving grace of God.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  15. thecrashdummy

    nice article, but you really miss the point of helping the mentally ill.
    i understand you approach it your way. but it changes nothing.
    i grew up with a mentally ill mother. i have been dealing with depression for over 40 years.
    care, compassion and medical treatment are all components of helping.
    by adding religion takes away from the recovery. it only alters the focus. IT DOES NOT CLARIFY THE FOCUS OF RECOVERY WHICH CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED MEDICALLY.
    my mother prayed every day of her life. prayer and god gave her no relief.
    her greatest fear was to die from mental illness. she was happy to die from cancer.
    if you want to help mentally ill, keep them involved with their treatment.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
    • exRed

      I also had a mother who was depressed and unstable and I've struggled with depression most of my life. Good luck to you and hang in there. I hope you have a network of supportive and compassionate friends. It helps a lot. Religion is irrelevant and possibly damaging.

      April 7, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  16. According to the American journal of psychiatry...

    Those that are religiously affiliated have "significantly lower" rates of suicide.

    April 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • Saints,sinners and demons

      As the commentary states the church ought to reach out, the "significantly lower" rate is no excuse to stay complacent.

      April 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      April 7, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  17. To Ed Stetzer

    Great points!

    April 7, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • Saints,sinners and demons

      The church ought to provide a strong support in addition to the immediate family. No easy answers, but the church ought to reach out in compassion, not only to those that are mentally ill, but also to people who are hurting.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • To Ed Stetzer

      Btw, I love your curriculum, it is great!!!

      April 7, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  18. Raoul Duke, Jr.

    Step one: Don't feed them your religious BS from a young age; let them figure it out on their own.
    Step two: See step one.

    April 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Miriam

      yep ...

      April 7, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • lol??

      You're in good hands with All-Statism.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
    • Betty

      Agreed, Raoul!

      April 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
  19. WhenCowsAttack

    "I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life."

    He then goes on to say

    "So often in a congregation, we like to pretend this is not a real issue because we have such a difficult time understanding it. We stick our heads in the sand, add the person to the prayer list and continue on ministering to the “normal” people"

    So, why did God not protect this poor boy who was praying so fervently?

    Also, is this pastor not directly stating that adding them to the prayer list doesn't work because this problem is "real"? I am reading this as "prayer only works on issues that are not real".

    If this man is still a Christian and pastor, he has just talked himself into a corner and frankly admitted that praying does NOTHING.

    April 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • JJ

      That's the insanity called Christianity.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
    • actsmail

      I don't see the contradiction. Prayer is real, just like mental illness is real. What the writer said was, "I prayed with Jim. We talked often about the need for him to take his medicine, but he kept asking God to fix him. Eventually, at his lowest point and filled with despair, he took his own life."

      When you pray for someone who is ill – interceding on their behalf, you are praying for answers and intervention. It sounds like Jim had the answers – in the form of the medication – but he didn't take it. It also sounds like the writer is saying that he was ill equipped to help Jim because he wasn't trained to handle someone with a mental illness. That's true of everyone, pastor or not... unless you're a psychologist or psychiatrist, most of us have no idea how to deal with a mentally ill person.

      To me the call of the article is a call to Christians to learn more about how God has crafted all of us – even the ones with mental illness – and to serve them the way God would have us.

      April 7, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      He did address that – he said expecting prayer to heal mental illness, without medical intervention – is like doing the same for cancer. Most churches, you get cancer, they're praying for you.... while telling you to go to the doctor, take all the treatments. This article has the reasonable premise that the same should be done for mental illness.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  20. For the greater good

    I hope this tragedy opens doors for the greater good in helping those that are struggling.

    April 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Saints,sinners and demons

      Sometimes the congregants forget that the pastors family also need encouragement and support.
      This tragedy is a great lesson on how people can be supportive and encourage the pastors and their family.

      April 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.