Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christianity and mental illness

This is a major issue in the church, where there is still considerable misunderstanding, as there is in the wider community. One would hope that a church would be counter-cultural, but all too often it reflects the world's values rather than challenging them. This post will be a short introduction to my thoughts on this issue, as it's getting late and I'm a bit tired. Firstly, what are my motivations for writing about this? I am a Christian, and have been attending various churches for my whole life (40 years and counting) Thirty years ago I was first diagnosed with severe clinical depression and put on a tricyclic antidepressant called amitryptyline This drug is no longer recommended for children as it can cause psychotic symptoms, as it did for me. These included thinking there was a tape recorder under my bed, thinking the radio was speaking directly to me, and a feeling that a cosmic battle between good and evil was being fought in my mind. I was bed bound, virtually paralysed with tension, for about six months. So, I have 30 years experience of mental illness, three quarters of my life.
I have found that churches don't often address mental illness - I've never heard a sermon explicitly on the issue. Although most Christians are compassionate, some feel that mental illness is somehow your own fault - you're not praying enough, you don't have sufficient faith, you are weak or deficient in some way. Some even see it as a form of demon possession. In this series of posts I'm going to explore Christian attitudes to mental illness, share some of my experiences, negative and positive, and outline my views and beliefs about how Christians can respond to it in others and themselves. I'm not usually one to share my illness like this, but I have been so inspired and helped by other blogs on mental illness, that I thought maybe, just maybe, someone out there might find this helpful. Also, it might help other Christians who don't suffer mental illness to understand it better and to respond more appropriately.
Comments very welcome, I'd love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. a great post Henry.
    my experience too is that churches don't often address mental health issues, but actively shy away from them.
    A while back, a friend made two attempts on their life, and while our church gathered around and held them, there was a lot of praying for miraculous healing...
    I sketched out my thoughts on this a while back ( http://heldintension.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/it-just-is) and here are some other more specific thoughts / notes I wrote ages ago http://heldintension.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/self-harm/

    you might find them interesting!