Have you ever heard that Christians are not supposed to get depressed? That somehow being a Christian should protect us from mental illness? This is not true, yet this falsehood persists among well-meaning Christians. Why is this?
A depressed Christian does not fit the image of a model Christian, one full of joy and hope. It is thought that someone who is depressed is lacking in faith and weak in prayer. Therefore, these conclusions are drawn about a depressed Christian:
This person is not a real Christian
This person is not a mature Christian
This person is not a victorious Christian
To discover the truth of the matter consider this. Would the same conclusion be drawn of a Christian who had cancer? Heart disease? MS? Dementia? No, of course not. Why?
Mental illness is a disease, just like any other disease, but it is a disease of the mind. The mind/heart/soul is where our joy, hope, faith reside. Consequently, incorrect conclusions have been drawn about mental illness.
For instance, mistaken Christians will suggest that prayer and faith are a substitute for medication. Saying this does more harm than good. Prayer is a good supplement for treating mental illness but it is not a substitute.
Incorrect conclusions about mental illness is not only a Christian problem. When a person is depressed the implication is, they could help themselves if only they tried a little harder. They are told:
Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!
Get over yourself!
Pull yourself together!
This kind of talk keeps the depressed person suffering in silence and isolated from help. It heaps shame and guilt onto a person already depressed. Furthermore, it shows the ignorance of the one saying these things.
There are many types of mental illnesses. The 5 most common are depression, anxiety, bi-polar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, and dementia. Depression impacts an estimated 300 million people, affecting more women than men.
When someone is mentally ill the chemicals in their brain are not working correctly. The person is not thinking or acting as they would if their brain was healthy. They may seem a mere image of themselves: saying, thinking, feeling and doing things not typical for them.
To make things proportionate, one must have a healthy mind to be compared with someone already healthy. In other words, do not judge someone with mental illness as you would someone without. Just as you would not ask someone with a weak heart to run a mile, do not expect those who are depressed to be full of joy and hope. This just isn’t going to happen. First treat the illness.
Up Next: Help! I’m Depressed — Treating the Illness
Related: My Mental Illness
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health care worker or physician. I have tried to be factually accurate.
© 2019 Lena Rae