Health Corner

Christians as good Samaritans in mental health crises

Seeking medical help is not denying God’s power, whether it is our physical or mental health.


The hard truth is that the mental health crisis and suicide epidemic are highly prevalent in Christian churches. Many, even within our church walls, are overwhelmed, emotionally hurting, and seeking answers. Mental illnesses don’t discriminate; having faith in Jesus doesn’t always make you immune to mental illnesses just like it doesn’t make you immune to a sore throat, a fever, or hypertension. Remember, we all live in a fallen world, in a fallen body which can get sick. Mental illnesses may come to the godliest and most talented of God’s ministers in the churches also. Surprisingly, in our neighborhoods, they are everywhere in our own offices, even in our own homes or churches. Yes, Christians, too, can suffer from mental illnesses. The fellow believer who sits and worships next to us in our pews may be struggling with a mental illness we don’t know of!

We cannot assume that those we love and look up to are not fighting the darkness. Maybe they are too ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed to talk about their struggles or be worried about the exclusion, discrimination, or the abandonment because mental illness is still highly stigmatized in our church communities. Haven’t we read incidents where individuals with high spiritual backgrounds and religious leadership committing suicides due to their mental illnesses? We need to realize that even spiritual leaders, pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, and the faithful churchgoers can struggle with mental illness in complete secret isolation. Surprisingly, mental illnesses are very often misinterpreted as ‘spiritual warfare’ alone. They are viewed as ‘tests from God’ or ‘caused by demons or evil spirits’ or ‘punishment for our sins’ or ‘lack of faith, trust or commitment to God’ and get labeled as ‘spiritually weak or fallen souls.’ Even if we come across someone with mental illnesses, we often rush to conclusions and tell them to “just trust God more or pray more, and it would all somehow go away.”

When it comes to mental illnesses, we think prayer and fasting alone can always conquer serious psychiatric diseases. We encourage and urge individuals with diabetes, cancer, or other physical illnesses to seek expert help from the medical professionals and continue the follow-up checkups as directed. We often ignore or neglect mental illnesses because of our misperceptions about them. Seeking medical help is not denying God’s power, whether it is our physical or mental health. We don’t realize that mental health is as important as physical health and that mental illnesses are also medical conditions that are treatable with appropriate care. The roots and causes of mental illness can be varied and diverse, and that they probably had tried everything they knew, including ‘praying more and trusting more’ before they approached us!

What should churches do? (will be continued in Part 3)

PREETHY T THOMAS<br>  Dual certified APRN <br> OKHLAHOMA

Dual certified APRN

Preethy T Thomas is a dual certified APRN (Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner) currently employed in Oklahoma, as a PMHNP providing psychiatric treatment and medication management for children and adults. She obtained her BSN from CMC, Vellore; MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner from Georgetown University, D.C, and Post Masters in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner from Stony Brook University, New York. Her favorite part of working in Psychiatry is ‘being able to help those who can’t help themselves’.

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