May 7, 2021
Within the Christian community, the topic of mental health can be considered sensitive or taboo. However, many believers struggle with issues that require professional treatment or counseling; as Christians, we must now learn to navigate the balance of spiritual and professional support as the need for mental health treatment continues to rise.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, in 2019, 20.6% of adults in the US suffer from a mental illness, representing 1 in 5 adults. The highest reported conditions included Major Depressive Episodes and Anxiety Disorders. However, only 43.8% of adults with mental illness sought professional help.
Consequently, in a recent study by the Barna group, it was discovered that non-Christians are twice as likely to seek counseling and professional help for mental illness. Within the Christian community, there is a thick stigma against seeking treatment for mental health, and until this past fall, I found myself convinced that going to counseling was evident of a lack of faith. I thought that by admitting I needed help for my anxiety and depression I was being sinful.
In most churches, there is a lack of availability for professional care in response to mental illness. While there are usually resources such as small groups, mentors, and pastors, these individuals do not have the training necessary to deal with serious conditions. In most situations, mental health issues can easily be misunderstood, and the solutions given by leaders in the church can be hurtful and confusing.
For me, anytime I brought up struggles with depression, anxiety, and even my relationship with food, I was met with three common misconceptions.
Each of these are not only inaccurate but have been detrimental in my journey to find liberation. I remember being prayed over week after week in youth groups and prayer times with no change in my situation. I began to question what I was doing wrong, was I saying the wrong words when I prayed? Was I not praying enough? I eventually tried to ignore my mental health situation. Thinking if I could forget about it, it would be okay. This led to an overflow of emotions and fears and doubts in my mind. The issue was never resolved, it just grew until I knew something had to change.
In the Fall of 2020, I made my first appointment with a mental health counselor and have been going regularly ever since. Through the help of a professional, I have found liberation, clarity, and self-confidence. The practice of professional counseling in conjunction with prayer and time in the word has been the perfect combination to help me understand my situation better.
If you are a Christian who is questioning seeking help for your mental health, I would advise that you seek a professional counselor who is also a Christian. Having a counselor who understands your faith and your worldview is so helpful in making progress and breaking down barriers. Counselors can incorporate as much or as little “faith-talk” into your sessions and homework. Everyone has a different comfort level and set of needs, but there is no pressure to over-spiritualize your very real struggles.
Admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness, it’s not wrong, and it’s not sinful or an act of doubt. It’s the first step in finding freedom.
I would like to add some advice to those of you who are not struggling with mental health issues but know someone who is. I have compiled a simple list of tips that will help you navigate conversations surrounding mental health with gentleness, kindness, and understanding.
Written by: Lisa Diaczynsky
Lisa is a Junior studying Business Administration and Graphic Design. She enjoys writing for the blog to express her creativity as well as sharing her views and opinions. She is passionate about healthy relationships, graphic design, social/political reform and mental health.