4 misconceptions about mental health in the church

The church has been far too silent for far too long when it comes to mental health. We perpetuate stigmas and put on masks while all around us people are broken and in need of our help and love. 

Pray it away

“If you have enough faith you will be healed.” This has been shouted from pulpits, whispered in prayer meetings and signed to get-well cards. Stop doing this, church! God has the power to heal, but that does not mean He always does or must. He isn’t a formula. There aren’t magic words or a ritual that puts us in control of God. For some, walking through mental illness is part of the story. God is with them every step of the way, and He expects His church to walk with them too. 

The burden of faith lies not on the one suffering, but on the community called to surround him or her and share God’s unfailing love as they walk through dark places. 

It’s best not to talk about “it”

There are uncomfortable topics in life. We act as if the problem will go away if we don’t mention it. Being aware of suicide, knowing that others are suffering, walking with someone through difficult times and putting a voice to the brokenness will not lead to more suicide. Instead, it will shine light where there was only darkness and bring healing and hope to those who are struggling. We are called to carry one another’s burdens together. How can we do this if we refuse to name the burdens? 

People with mental health issues are unsafe

Because we live in a culture of silence around this issue, we aren’t talking facts. The facts are that those with mental health issues are no more prone to violence against others than those who do not suffer under the weight of mental illness. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence (see https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/mental-illness-and-violence). 

It’s a crisis of faith

Mental illness is not a crisis of faith. Many reasons may impact why someone has a mental illness, such as trauma or chemical imbalance. Regardless of the cause (even if it does correlate with a crisis of faith), the church has a responsibility to act. 

We need to encourage hard questions for those with doubt. The church should be a safe place to explore faith and be transparent with our inner struggles. Church, we have to be okay with the mess. We must talk about mental health issues and explore the facts instead of sitting in silence. Prayer is vital and so is action. Pray that you have the faith to come alongside those who are hurting and sit with them in their darkest moments.