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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. Something to consider

    I took this article to mean that churches can serve to emotionally support someone dealing with a mental illness and not ignore it. It does require being educated on mental illness and helping provide the necessary tools/guidance for the person to get the professional help they need. It's the education that is failing. Religions need to accept that mental illness is real and needs to be treated just like diabetes, heart disease and cancer needs to be treated. Nothing like having a fanatical Christian tell someone who is struggling with a mental illness that they are possessed by demons. Depending on the church and the people involving religion with this battle can be risky.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Fred M.

    Next Week on CNN, read "How tobacco companies can respond to lung cancer."

    April 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  3. Susan StoHelit

    It's a valid point that churches are often where those with mental illnesses go. If they could learn more, and thus do better with helping them, urging them to accept the medical treatment that they often so badly need – that would be a very good thing.

    I'm no fan of churches, and all to often they encourage the delusions, make them worse, make the mentally ill believe they can pray it away, convince them the voices in their head are real – all kinds of destructive things. More education being shared between churches to properly handle the mentally ill is nothing but a good thing.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I agree it can be handled very poorly by religions that haven't caught up with modern psychology. But for those groups who agree that there is validity in modern psychological findings and treatments, religious organizations can go a long way in supporting people to get the help they need. For others it might be time to open their eyes and start learning what huge advances the field of psychology has made in the last 60 years.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  4. 111Dave111

    Son of Pastor Rick Warren commits suicide.
    Matthew Warren was found dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Worst possible combination:

    Mental Illness, Religion, & a Gun in the Home.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  5. medication compliance

    One thing that must be emphasized is that severe mental illness requires lifelong medication, not prayers. You can't pray the grey [mood] away any more than pray your cancer away. I think community support from church congregations is excellent and does help a lot but that help should be limited to support for medication compliance and social support. Mental illness is a disease like any other and symptoms like hallucinations and depression are just that: symptoms of disease just like fever is a symptom. Treat the disease, not the symptoms and stick with your medication even though it sucks sometimes.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Tee totally bonkers

      Some medication causes mental health problems.

      When someone does not want to take their medication there may be a reason.
      Shoving drugs down people's throat is not a cure.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • OrgDoc

      Mediation compliance is extremely important, as you suggest, but I disagree that prayer should not be part of the support a church provides those suffering from mental illness. Social isolation is a major contributing factor to the depth of how deep one sinks into depression, for example. Whether on believes in prayer or not, the experience of being supported by others is important. We would not want cancer sufferers to walk alone, why should we treat those with mental illness differently?

      April 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Bonkers, do you have personal experience? Expertise? Medication can help immensely and sometimes it IS enough.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  6. RF

    Church is a perfect place to help with mental illness. If only the parishioners would stop screwing the church up!

    April 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • wrong

      it's not,, that simple. Religions have zero concept of humanity and mental illness. Religion is an escape from reality, an addiction.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  7. CJ

    Encouraging people to have deep, personal relationship with a being you cannot even go and have lunch with IS mental illness. And how do you tell a schizophrenic who is hearing 'voices' that their experience is hallucination and needs treatment when Joan of Arc's voices were evidence of her divine favor? Churches and religion need to stay out of health care. And I would hope most people already know that.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Chad

      @CJ "Encouraging people to have deep, personal relationship with a being you cannot even go and have lunch with IS mental illness"

      =>not if that "person" is real.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      And, of course, there is no verifyable evidence that this being IS real

      April 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • CJ

      @Chad. Go and have lunch with jesus and order the turkey reuben for him. See if it gets eaten.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I agree, a church can be the worst place for mental illness, lets face it the Bible has some terrible, terrible events in it and furthermore it indirectly encourages the acts of the "chosen people" because they were working as the hand of god. I have a brother who is mentally ill, most likely Bi polar and doesnt want to be diagnosed because god/Jesus can fix him. Even though folks at his church try to help him they follow in the foot steps of what our family tried and keep trying to do for him which is accpet personal repsonsibility for his condition and the resulting consequences. A facility that sells, at best hope for everything from disease to eternal salvation though the recorded and then translated words of some mentally questionable persons who's acts range from deplorable to enlightened is not the place for a sick person to accept responsibility. The Bible and its teachigns were recorded in a book by men as far back as 2500 yrs and as recent as 1700 yrs ago they could only understand that mental illness it self was possibly "god talking through people". We have progressed far past this, we have science and medical diagnostics that can help. As long as my brother has a place to hide from reality he will never get better.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Science

      Again Chad ...........................facts work better than a fairy in the sky ?

      Listening to the Big Bang - In High Fidelity

      Apr. 4, 2013 — A decade ago, spurred by a question for a fifth-grade science project, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404170154.htm

      April 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • Science

      By the way Chad did that time machine (example) work ?

      April 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Chad

      @Science "Again Chad ...........................facts work better than a fairy in the sky ? ...University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404170154.htm"

      =>actually, I believe in the big bang, the universe is ~13.7 billion years old. Not sure what you mean by posting that?

      Is this another one of your "post_a_random_science_fact_then_imply_I_don’t_believe_it_in_a_futile_attempt_to_cast me_as_somehow_anti-science .. but_then_it_turns_out_I_do_and_you_look_like_you_have_no_idea_what_my_position_is_and/or_you_are_unable_to_address_the_argument"?

      April 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Chad

      @sam stone "And, of course, there is no verifyable evidence that this being IS real"
      @Chad "A. what would you consider verifiable evidence?
      B. Why dont you ever answer that question?

      ===
      @CJ "Go and have lunch with jesus and order the turkey reuben for him. See if it gets eaten."
      @Chad "you'll be quite surprised to find out that the New Testament says that Christ is with us by spirit, not physically.. So you example is not in line with Christian doctrine..

      April 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • clarity

      @CJ:

      STOP IT!!!! BLASPHEMY!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

      Turkey belongs no where near a Reuben!

      April 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Science

      Chad for you. have a great day !

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoNqSrA7Mos

      April 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • CJ

      @ Chad. Thanks for illustrating my point. Christian doctrine is to have a personal relationship with someone who is non-material and indistinguishable from an imaginary friend. You thus undercut your own initial reply to me , which was to assert that god or jesus was 'real'. Christian doctrine is to encourage fantasy land.

      Another christian doctrine was the imminent ending of the world and coming of the kingdom of god in the lifetime of the first christians. See Mark Ch 9 vs 1. See also Paul in Thessalonians 1 when he tells his concerned fellow christians not to worry about those who had died and no second coming had occurred. He tells them that 'we who are awake' will be 'taken up into the air' to meet with christ.

      That never happened either. You keep trying though.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Chad

      @CJ "Thanks for illustrating my point. Christian doctrine is to have a personal relationship with someone who is non-material and indistinguishable from an imaginary friend. You thus undercut your own initial reply to me , which was to assert that god or jesus was 'real'. Christian doctrine is to encourage fantasy land."
      @Chad "no.. not true at all
      non-material doesnt mean non-real.
      – Jesus was material, Jesus currently exists in this universe as a material agent , this is demonstrated by His ability to communicate via the Holy Spirit.
      – Atheists consider various non-material things real, such as the multi-verse.

      =====
      @CJ "Another christian doctrine was the imminent ending of the world and coming of the kingdom of god in the lifetime of the first christians. See Mark Ch 9 vs 1. See also Paul in Thessalonians 1 when he tells his concerned fellow christians not to worry about those who had died and no second coming had occurred. He tells them that 'we who are awake' will be 'taken up into the air' to meet with christ."
      @Chad "A. you need to distinguish between an individuals belief which is captured in the bible and what God has said will happen.
      B. No one knows the day of the coming of the Lord, not even Jesus

      "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. " - Jesus Christ (matthew 24)

      April 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • CJ

      @ Chad. Wow, you keep digging yourself deeper don't you.

      'Non-material does not mean non-real'. Really? And what non-material thing exists that is real and how would you prove this to us? And your reasoning is absurd and circular. Using a different branch of the trinity, also immaterial (holy spirit), to prove the existence of another immaterial branch, jesus? That is not proof. That is just restating your theology. Jesus was probably a real person, a palestinian jew who lived about 2000 yrs ago. And then he died, and if he died on a cross then he joined thousands of others who died that way. There is no evidence he came back from the dead or anything supernatural.

      And you say atheists do the same thing when we consider the possibility of a multiverse? Nonsense. First of all, not that atheists are all educated about astrophysics, but 'considering' and 'believing' are very different. Even the physicists do not go so far to believe in the multiverse, they only point to the quantum mathematics and show how it is consistent with a multiverse. But we reserve belief until there is evidence. You do not . You believe based on dogma you have been taught and for which you have no proof, except your ridiculous point that the holy spirit is proof, except that you offer no test to show that the holy spirit exists. I could claim equal proof for magic unicorns, which are revealed to us in the divine 'equine spirit'.

      And you do not know your scripture very well. ' You need to distinguish an individuals belief which was captured in the bible and what god says will happen'?. In Mark 9 and again in Mark 13 Jesus tells his listeners that it will happen in their lifetime. That 'there are those among you who will not taste death', but will see these things come to pass. So while he did not tell them which day, he did say it was going to happen for that generation currently living. And it NEVER happened! And YOU believe Jesus was god himself. So god himself said those things and was wrong.

      And your last quote is brilliant for the contradictions in the bible and how completely human and invented it looks. You quote matthew when he says 'only the Father knows' when the end will come. That is not the theology as presented in John, chapter 10 verse 30 when he says 'I and the father are one.'

      If you want to do a better job with your scripture, may I suggest reading the excellent books by Bart Ehrman, professor of religious studies at UNC, chapel hill. Cuz right now you are just making it up as you go.

      April 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Chad

      @CJ "'Non-material does not mean non-real'. Really? And what non-material thing exists that is real and how would you prove this to us?"
      @Chad "again, the multi-verse is a good example.
      Are you claiming that there is no such thing as something that is non-natural?
      Are you claiming that that nothing exists beyond the natural universe? Unless you can prove it, you accept that you are open to the reality of a non-material ent ity.

      ===
      @CJ "'There is no evidence he came back from the dead or anything supernatural."
      @Chad "not so at all,
      Evidence for the resurrection:

      1. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by Roman authorities for claiming to be the promised Messiah.
      2. After three days the tomb in which he was laid was found empty by a group of His women followers.
      3. Following that find, many different people, in various circumstances, in groups and individually, believers, skeptics and deniers of Jesus, reported meeting a physically resurrected Jesus.
      4. Those people abruptly changed their activities, and from that day forward proclaimed that they had personally witnessed a resurrected Jesus. A belief they held so strongly that they were willing to go to their deaths proclaiming the truth of it.

      ====
      @CJ "And you do not know your scripture very well. ' You need to distinguish an individuals belief which was captured in the bible and what god says will happen'?. In Mark 9 and again in Mark 13 Jesus tells his listeners that it will happen in their lifetime. That:
      '“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
      So while he did not tell them which day, he did say it was going to happen for that generation currently living. And it NEVER happened! And YOU believe Jesus was god himself. So god himself said those things and was wrong.

      @Chad "it did happen, see destruction of Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD

      ====
      lastly, you badly misunderstand what Jesus meant by saying "I and the Father are one."
      He did NOT mean that they were the identical person, otherwise who is Jesus praying to, Himself?

      Who said this?
      "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

      was Jesus engaging in ventriloquism?

      no... Bart Ehrman doesnt hold that that is what Christian theology is.. In fact, he views the trinity as a later addition..

      April 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
    • clarity

      Chad: [ 1. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by Roman authorities for claiming to be the promised Messiah.
      2. After three days the tomb in which he was laid was found empty by a group of His women followers.
      3. Following that find, many different people, in various circumstances, in groups and individually, believers, skeptics and deniers of Jesus, reported meeting a physically resurrected Jesus.
      4. Those people abruptly changed their activities, and from that day forward proclaimed that they had personally witnessed a resurrected Jesus. A belief they held so strongly that they were willing to go to their deaths proclaiming the truth of it. ]

      A tomb is just a tomb . . .
      Especially when there's no one there who saw who left the room ...
      But a tomb is not a house ...
      And a house is not a home . . . . .

      So Chad – I hope you do realize how many tombs were in that area during that time in various states of age, abandonment.

      And the stories of witness. How do we know about these stories? Who wrote about such things? Who were the autors? Who had access to the writings? Do we know, for instance, that Josephus' writings were all of his own?

      April 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • clarity

      ( authors )

      April 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  8. theala

    I see the hate is out in force today, missing the entire point of the article.

    The author actually wrote a balanced piece that addressed concerns like replacing medication and psychotherapy with religion.

    Rather, he advocates it is an important resource in building a system of support for the mentally ill person . . . and many here would have that ignored because they don't like religion.

    So yes, let's go ahead and throw out the baby with the bathwater. It is much more important to make snarky comments about people of faith than it is to recognize it for what it really is: one tool among many.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • wrong

      it wasn't a balanced report,, it was one sided. Religion is the LAST place anyone should seek mental health assistance.

      Please use some common sense!!!

      April 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Fred M.

      "I see the hate is out in force today, missing the entire point of the article."

      Yes. I hate religion. And I hate those who try to foist it off on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

      That's because I am a decent person.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  9. us_1776

    Religion is a mental illness.

    The blind leading the blind???

    .

    April 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  10. tony

    Absolutely vile and disgusting apology for an article. More lying justification for keeping the holy collection bowl filled.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  11. ME II

    I think it is quite revealing that all four "responses" are, in fact, things to stop doing:

    1. Churches need to stop hiding mental illness.
    2. The congregation should be a safe place for those who struggle. (stop it from not being a safe place?)
    3. We should not be afraid of medicine.
    4. We need to end the shame.

    Perhaps, this article should be reti.tled 'How churches should not respond to mental illness (because their responses aren't working).'

    April 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
    • 111Dave111

      Saraswati:
      They would do the same thing a school, college,or even an employer might do: offer referrals and support.
      For people who are regular church goers this is a major element of community, and many people aren't really a part of other communities.
      The request is that these organizations step up and take on the responsibilities expected of other organized communities.

      Saraswati:
      Most Church employees aren't mental health professionals and
      – most members can't offer treatment to members.
      The best thing an organization of this sort can do is
      1) fight for real healthcare reform that opens access to mental health care,
      2) provide information and connections to community mental health resources,
      3) provide support groups for people with mental illness and their families,
      – are facilitate access to groups in a larger community
      4) encourage real learning and understanding on the subject of mental illness,
      5) provide financial support to members until real reform does take place,
      6) create committees of helpers who will assist those who request help
      These suggestions apply really to any shared community but especially to one with shared values.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  12. Jon

    haha, Feeding delusional fantasies of magic to the mentally ill, what could go wrong?

    April 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ViK100

      Only God can help you. Your pride is a real delussion.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • wrong

      VIK100,, the poster was being a realist. Religion has zero to do with reality,, it's an escape from it.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Science

      VC100 ............reallity = evolution

      April 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Science

      Oops VK 100

      April 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Squeezebox

      The Catholic Church (yes it's us again), teaches that people who commit suicide will go to Hell unless they didn't mean to do it. People with depression and mentall illness have a heavy burden of pain. My own mother suffered from depression caused by the drugs necessary to treat her epilepsy. She confided to us that her depression was so bad that she sometimes contemplated suicide, but the thing that always kept her from doing it was the fear of going to Hell for it. She died from complications of cancer surgery. The pain of mental illness is heavy, but it is a product of how God made us. It all goes back to questions of why God allows pain and suffering to begin with, but sometimes all you can do is hold somebody's hand and say I know it hurts and I wish I could make it stop, but I'm here for you anyway. If the fear of Hell is what it takes to keep somebody going, where's the harm?

      April 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • ME II

      "If the fear of Hell is what it takes to keep somebody going, where's the harm?"

      You, of course, mean other than constantly being in fear of eternal torture, right?

      April 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  13. The blind leading the blind? Or more like the INSANE leading the INSANE

    Deluded nutwhacks who think the Earth is 5,000 years old, that women came from a piece of rib, and that every animal on earth (male AND female) could fit on a tiny ship and be cared for and fed by a crew of less than 10 people can't help their own sanity – much less help anyone else who's insane.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Only a subset of religious people believe that kind of thing. The best estimates I've seen are that in the US it's less than half even among Christians, and it's far lower among Jews, Hindus and Buddhists.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Charles

      Yes, it is much easier to believe that you are the descendant of a monkey.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      charles
      You have it wrong...we are descendants of apes, with a common ancestor to monkeys. The fossil records and DNA prove it.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • 111Dave111

      Sara –
      While I greatly respect many of your other posts,
      what you are saying is that you, and many others,
      believe a subset of Christianity,
      since many things in the bible make no sense.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Dave, I'm not a Christian. Maybe I misunderstood your comment?

      April 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Dave, I don't see any reason a Christian should have to follow 100% of the bible. I don't think I ever met one who had. And people can still believe in following Jesus yet not believe the bible is without error or all literal. I think it's either Christians who think their way is right, or atheists who want to define them out of existence, who force tight definitions on Christianity. Most do not require such strict rules to bear the name.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Saraswati,

      the truly scary thing is that according to Gallup, (from memory) 47% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

      Most of these people will also believe in the global flood (Noah) and could be imputed to believe that all living animals were maintained on the ark.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Clarifying:

      "Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." – June 2012

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx

      April 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  14. Fred M.

    So, if you have some mentally ill person who's hearing voices in his head telling him to kill, churches can "help" by telling him that "God" speaks to people telepathically?

    April 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Schizophrenics frequently become religious; it's a common symptom of the illness. It seems likely that if undergoing treatment hearing from another religious person that this is not god would be at least as credible as from a secular source. Most religious people believe schizophrenia is a real illness.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I have a friend who is schizophrenic. We are not of the same religion. He has had a lifelong delusion that he is Jesus Christ and frequently becomes suicidal. After a lot of conversations and prayer as well as extensive therapy and medication, he and I have agreed, there is a God and it ain't him and it ain't me.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Fred M.

      "Most religious people believe schizophrenia is a real illness."

      But "hearing" God speak to you is not schizophrenia?

      They would be much better off being cared for by someone who rejected all notion that *any* voice in ones head is explainable as something other than mental illness.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Fred, Hearing god speak to you is actually no necessarily schizophrenia, though it can be. Schizophrenia is a pretty specific and tragic illness and medication is really the primary treatment. Outide of that the supportive environment could vary wildly and still work. Really keeping people on the meds is the #1 issue.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  15. A Linoge

    Ha! As if churches aren't partially to BLAME for mental illness.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • wrong

      actually,, that's a very good point. Religion is an addiction as are drugs and alcohol. They all are an escape from reality,, causing the victim to lose out on precious life.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      please show the links to the AMA diagnosis protocol for religious addiction.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Wrong, I think you'd be more correct to say religion is an addiction like following your favorite sports team with your friends is an addiction. Or being in love with your partner is an addiction. All these things are behaviors that meet psychological needs and all can be good or bad, or can be taken or left. All, however, will leave psychological withdrawal...but do we really want to say it is always bad?

      April 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • wrong

      Psychologists are the least religious of American Professors,, google that statement.

      Just like in the Middle east, people stay away from negative comments re: muslim,, in the US professionals do the same. Just not good for business. Religion is a poison in which most professionals will ignore.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So in other words, no, the AMA does not recognize religion or fascination with sports as an addiction. Thanks for playing.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @Bill, if it's not clear I'm on your side here. But you might want to note that the AMA is not the primary force in the US for defining mental illness – that would be the APA.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      Bill Deacon sez:
      "please show the links to the AMA diagnosis protocol for religious addiction."
      don't have the actual link ...
      but how about Jim Jones ? and his Guyana deal?
      here are some more
      http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-cults.php

      April 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • free man

      what is it those organizations say about being gay?

      Do you hold those truths to be self evident as well?

      April 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Wrong again

    What this goof is suggesting is those with illness use religion as an escape from reality. More often those with problems will use drugs and/or alcohol.

    What the individual needs is medical help from a professional, not escape. Escape is NOT living a life!

    April 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Alienate

      In a similar vein, I kept hearing about the children of my mom's evangelical friends who committed suicide. My take: The fire and brimstone message sent them into despair and suicide was their only perceived way out.
      Bottom line: Their religious beliefs CAUSES Suicides.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      The only way out of the fire is to jump into the fire?

      April 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  17. William Demuth

    Belief in non existant sky creatures IS mental illness.

    Fundies are loonies. Right wing wackos force fell malarcky since birth, they are dangerously irrational.

    The ruler of time space and dimension is a freind you can speak with directly?

    Get the nets!

    April 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  18. Willie12345

    Churches do help, all of the time. It's the State and Federal government that throw these poor folks out on the street. Want more mass murders, just keep it up President Obama ! (Oh, yea ...... the mentally disabled don't/can't vote.)

    April 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      I agree chrurches do help all the time, just not when they employ their religion, when they do that they can potentially do harm.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • HenryB

      What total nonsense. I can see Catholic parishes doing this but evangelicals, not so much. Perhaps the evangelicals can now see it fit to start caring about their fellow man instead of just focusing on how they fare with God. These evangelicals see the grace part but never the works because that would ask them to get off of their fat white petards.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Akira

      It was during the Reagan era that mental health facilities were defunded.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • wrong

      church will provide cheap services,, They also take our tax dollar for the services.

      Churches need to stick to voodoo,, not health issues

      April 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Saraswati

      As Akira points out, Reagan and the Republicans were responsible for defunding mental health. Churches can help with referrals and support, but we all need to work together to be sure people get real, professional help.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • clarity

      "Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science." -Thomas Jefferson

      April 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • clarity

      Although I do agree with MWIW, that if ministers are properly trained to deal with such issues, then that is better than when they are not and try to get involved in some strange way.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • ME II

      @Akira, @Saraswati,
      FYI

      "When President John F. Kennedy introduced the Community Mental Health Act of 1963—in his last address to Congress and his last piece of major legislation—he expressed the belief that eventually “all but a small portion” of those residing in large mental insti[]tutions could be served in the community."
      (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/3/676.full)

      According to psychiatrist and author Thomas Szasz, deinsti[]tutionalisation is the policy and practice of transferring homeless, involuntarily hospitalised mental patients from state mental hospitals into many different kinds of de facto psychiatric insti[]tutions funded largely by the federal government. These federally subsidised insti[]tutions began in the United States and were quickly adopted by most Western governments. The plan was set in motion by the Community Mental Health Act as a part of John F. Kennedy's legislation[clarification needed] and passed by the U.S. Congress in 1963, mandating the appointment of a commission to make recommendations for "combating mental illness in the United States".
      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinsti%5BREMOVE}tutionalisation)

      As further defined by President Jimmy Carter's Commission on Mental Health, this ideology rested on 'the objective of maintaining the greatest degree of freedom, self-determination, autonomy, dignity, and integrity of body, mind, and spirit for the individual while he or she participates in treatment or receives services.'"
      (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/special/excerpt.html)

      April 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • ME II

      p.s.
      Not that Reagan didn't close a lot of State Mental Hospitals, but the concept and implementation is not a "Republican" thing.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @MEII, I agree there's blame to go around and that the "independence" movement cause as many problems as it cured. But had funds ever actually been available for independent care the huge issues we see today would not have risen to the current magnitude.

      April 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • ME II

      @Saraswati,
      Perhaps...

      April 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  19. religions are kids playing make believe

    actually,, churches need to keep their cheap services away.. Mental illness is with professionals, not delusionals

    April 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • cameron

      HI my ignorant intolerant friend . I will have you know many churches do have or know licensed Therapists who can get help to the mentally ill. Nobody is going to require anything from anyone. Nobody is going to jump out and give you a suprise baptism so relax. So enjoy being a denier and try to show more respect to the 80% of fellow Americans who do have belief.

      April 8, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
  20. Melissa

    Chruches ARE a mental illness.

    April 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Can you show the studies that support that or are you making a claim you can't back up with facts? Wouldn't that qualify you as delusional?

      April 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Melissa

      Why do you need a study when using your brain will do?

      April 8, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
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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.