Does religion help people with mentall ilnesses?

Nothing I said undermines the role that religion has. It just simply brings up some of the other issues. Prayer is not a magic pill that solves everything. If it was, Paul would have never wrote in James 2 for people to look out for others. If prayer is all that was needed, then Christians would not need to feed and help the suffering. We don’t just say to those hurting, “ just pray about it and if God wants you to eat he will drop down a pie from the heavens and feed you”.

Also what you’re mentioning about sunlight and skin cancer is just not true. We evolved to live with the sun. Getting out in the sun to get vitamin D is far better than just taking pills. The majority of people who get skin cancer are those with a unhealthy immune system. Additionally they often tend to be people who are office workers, those who don’t get a lot of sunlight and then go out once in a blue moon and get sunburned. People with healthy active lifestyles who get a few hours of sunlight each day tend to not get skin cancer as much. There is a few great books on this subject but my favorite is Dr. Holick’s “ Vitamin D Solution”. It’s roughly 300 pages long and so although not very long it’s very detailed since it’s dedicated to this one subject.

I agree doing these things is not trying to replace counselors. But counselors , life coaches and psychologists are not the only ones qualified to be loving , caring and working to help others.

1 Like

Use sun block. There is no substitute for sunshine. Especially morning blue scattered light. The brain absorbs light. It likes it.

I didn’t say it undermines it. It’s just whether you’re religious or not, I can’t see this having much impact on certain aspects of your lifestyle, aspects that have HUGE impact on your mental wellbeing. But I’m sure some would disagree and say it does have impact, and perhaps in some cases, to a certain degree it may be so, but I’m talking in general.

Since this is not a dermatology forum, I won’t be discussing this. Sometimes you just need to agree to disagree.

Thanks, already use it, SPF 50 with 5 star rating for UVA.

It is similar to those who are disabled. They are loved of God and we will in a fallen world

1 Like

I don’t know why I put such time into a reply such as this, given that many people will only read the first couple of paragraphs. But here is my reply to the question, nevertheless:

Does religion help people with mental illnesses?

First of all, this question needs to be tidied up. There is no such entity as “religion”. If so, where does it hold its annual meetings? Does it have a board which decides matters of policy? “Religion” is simply a miscellaneous bin into which all sorts of ideas are thrown – often incompatible ideas. For example, Buddhism as a philosophy which does not hold to any supernatural entities. Ancient religions of the Middle East where the “god” was simply a personification of the city or the empire as the highest goal its inhabitants should serve.

On this site, the question should be, “Does the Christian Faith help people with mental illness?” This leads to two prior questions, “What is the Christian Faith?” and “What is mental illness?”

In a nutshell, the Christian Faith is the belief that we have received a provisional experience of the kingdom of God in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Various words are used for this in the New Testament, such as foretaste, down payment and first instalment. The idea is that all these things properly belong to the “End”; but we have experienced a foretaste as a pledge of the fullness which will come in the future. Perhaps the best analogy is that of a credit card, where one can spend the money one will have in the future, in the here and now. However, there is a credit limit which constrains how much of the future one can have in the present.

The salvation envisioned in the “End” events is all-embracing. It includes the human person in body, mind and spirit. Thus, Jesus brings such healing in his earthly ministry. It also includes all of Creation (including your pet dog), as St Paul makes clear in Romans 6.

So then, what is mental illness? And is it illness of the mind or also illness of the body? The modern approach to mental illness was initially proposed by Sigmund Freud and modified by the “post-Freudians”. It involved conflict between the various levels of the mind (id, ego, superego). One aim of the Freudians was to bring issues repressed into the id to the surface in order to deal with them. Freud’s approach, exclusively known as “psychoanalysis”, has been severely criticized for its validity (Is that really what’s going on in the mind?), and its reliability, (Can several therapists actually come up with the same diagnosis of the same person?).

In order to escape such subjectivity, learning theorists developed a theory called “Behaviorism” where associations with stimuli (classical conditioning) or behavior followed by reward (instrumental conditioning) shaped behavior. B.F. Skinner championed an extreme form of behaviorism wherein “one can assume the presence or absence of consciousness without it affecting the problems of behavior one jot or one tittle”. Less extreme forms admitted consciousness and its thought processes in the school of “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy”. As far as Behaviorists are concerned, there is no distinction between the ordinary psychological processes and those involved in mental illness. Examples of applied Behaviorist theory include systematic desensitization and the view that depression is caused by a low level of response-contingent positive reward.

After the Behaviorists came the Third Force psychologies , like those of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. These focused on self-actualization in a climate of unconditional love.

A major breakthrough occurred with developments in psychobiology. The brain operates by means of electrical signals along neurons, but the neurons are separated by spaces called synapses in which the electrical signals are conveyed chemically. Things like prolonged stress or inherited predispositions can lead to depletion of these chemicals and give rise to things like depression and anxiety, bi-polar depression, and schizophrenia. The solution lies in the prescription of psychoactive medications placing this area firmly in the area of psychiatry.

Of course, there are other schools of psychology, but this blurb cannot go on forever. Perhaps there needs to be mention of the pseudo-psychologies which consist of those playing at being Dr Phil. All sorts of derogatory claims are made about the motives of others and the beatification of oneself. These practices deserve our contempt.

So, what is the relationship between Christian Faith and mental illness?

Learn from God’s Creation

I think an important Christian insight is that God the Redeemer is one and the same as God the Creator. God the Creator has created a material universe in which there are causal links. As Christians, we must explore those links and identify causes and cures. God is not some sugar daddy in the sky who hops in and makes it better. This means that human efforts have real value and that the true heroes are not those with the biggest guns, but those in the lab and the clinic.

Work for the common good

Whether our gifts are natural or spiritual, we must exercise them for the common good. (See 1 Corinthians 12:1-7) Before he healed people of their infirmities, Jesus did not ask the person if they had health insurance! The health of all is a common good. We can see clearly what happens when the common good is neglected in the current pandemic. If vaccines only go out to those who can pay for it, the pandemic flourishes amongst the poor. In such an environment, numerous variants appear which negate the power of the original vaccines. We also see what happens when commerce is prioritized over the health and lives of people.

Mirror the kingdom of God on Earth

Christians can also work together to create a society which mirrors the kingdom of God. It is appalling to find that some people can work two fulltime jobs and still be stressed out over being able to pay for basic life essentials. That stress can lead to mental illness.

The Peace which passes Understanding

Yet above all of these remedies, there remains something that comes as a gift from God. Anxiety is a common element in much mental illness. Christ comes to bring us peace. In some places in the New Testament, we can see something that has echoes of cognitive behavioral therapy, when Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled … My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2 NIV) Tell yourself this, instead of the other narratives of self-talk. Yet St Paul speaks of the peace which passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) and which comes as a gift from God. I suppose that falls within the scope of a miracle given the anxiety from which many people suffer.

2 Likes

Good summary. I just read the first few lines, but… just kidding. I find my posts are often more for myself than others, as it helps me organize and make sense of my thoughts on the subject.
I tend to not lump all mental illness in the same pot. My medical training tended to focus on the more severe conditions that often have a genetic predisposition and manifest themselves as chemical or structural problems. These would include schizophrenia and Bipolar I. Other mental illnesses would probably be also influenced genetically, but have a higher environmental factor. At least my training considered Freud to be an anomaly, sort of seen like flat earthers today. In any case, we all have characteristics of mental illness, as every student of abnormal psych has seen themselves in most of the personality disorders they study. So maybe we are all “on the spectrum.”
In the end, you offer good advice to those of us who suffer the stings of misfortune affecting our psyche. But some need anti-psychotics.

3 Likes

Exactly. We were taught that schizophrenia is about the same in incidence and prevalence across all populations of the world, regardless of upbringing, etc. Some things can trigger it, but by and it is 1% over all the world. Other biochemical imbalances also occur.

1 Like

I think this is an astute observation. I don’t really hear this topic discussed, ever. My grandmother definitely struggled with some sort of mental illness but was undiagnosed & did not acknowledge herself that anything was wrong. She was a Christian but because her mind was out of touch with reality on some level, she ended up causing division in the church. She had all kinds of baseless conspiracies about people trying to take her things, nose into her life, etc. On the other hand, she did lots of things for needy people and even got her law degree at age 70 in order to help foster children in the courtroom in her “retirement”. She was a devout Christian and I have no doubt her Christian beliefs motivated her good works while at the same time her mental illness made it seemingly impossible to reason with her about the crazy accusations she made towards others in the church.

5 Likes

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.