The Stigma of Mental Illness in the Church

Mental health—it’s a touchy subject, one that has started to garner a lot of attention through the media but is mostly neglected through the church.  Yet even the media’s focus tends to center on the tragic events that involve someone who finally “loses it” in a violent act.  We don’t hear much about the ordinary, everyday people who are dealing with mental illness.

There is a stigma attached to issues of mental health in the church.  I have heard a wide range of questionable thoughts and opinions.  For instance, some say that depression is a lack of faith.  I’ve also heard there is no such thing as a generational curse of mental illness because Christ set us free.

I’m not diminishing the necessity for strong faith or living in the freedom of Christ.  Yet it doesn’t negate the very real struggle that some believers go through.  And it is no different than someone suffering from physical health issues.

In all honesty, it’s a topic that makes me uncomfortable, so writing this post isn’t exactly “my thing.”  But this is an issue that I strongly believe needs a voice—and not just because it affects me on a personal level—I know there are others out there who have felt the stigma.  Those who have felt shame or embarrassment or even outright denial of the struggle.

It’s not possible to cover everything in one post.  So, it’s probably safe to say that this won’t be my last.  But I wanted to at least open up the conversation.  I would guess that almost every reader knows someone who struggles with mental health or has fought their own demons with it.

Know that first, mental illness is not a sign of weak faith.   Depression was something that King David struggled with—if you don’t believe me, read the Psalms.  Or remember Elijah, who at one point was so depressed he was ready to give up…even asking God to take his life.  I believe that our greatest faith comes from the lowest points in life, the moments of desperation and when we feel the most unable.  Because it’s then we see the power of God move on our behalf…whether that means healing or strength to face the battle.

Second, mental illness can be a generational curse.  Just as diabetes or breast cancer might run in a family, so can schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  My family has a long history of mental illness.  My acceptance of Jesus doesn’t erase this truth.  But it does empower me to break the hold it’s had over us.

It’s an important topic…especially among believers.  Not just to draw attention to it but to point the way to the One who has the answers.

Psalm 42:5 “Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

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5 thoughts on “The Stigma of Mental Illness in the Church

  1. Laurie Ganiere says:

    VERY WELL WRITTEN FRIEND. VERY WELL WRITTEN.
    Certainly the subject makes many people squirm. Understandably so. What we can’t understand, we try to come up with answers that help it make sense and fit in to our theology. Your picture of it being no different than any other physical illness is a powerful one. Amen and Amen. Quoting you: “My acceptance of Jesus doesn’t erase this truth. But it does empower me to break the hold it’s had over us.” Love this – absolutely love this. Thank you for sharing these truths.

    Like

    • Stephanie Romero says:

      I greatly appreciate your feedback Pastor Laurie!!! This is something I’ve been wanting to write about but have felt reluctant. Even after I published it, I wondered if it was a mistake. I can see now that it wasn’t. Thank you!

      Like

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