Christians and mental illness is not a topic that is talked about a lot. In another church I once belonged to, an older friend told me one day that he suffered from depression. He also told me that the least helpful people for him were his fellow ‘brothers and sisters’ in the pews. They just kept telling me to ‘pull up my socks’, and gave me Bible verses exhorting joy as a gift from God, he explained. They basically behaved as if to deny what terrors he was experiencing and (kind of) put the blame at his own feet. At its worst, he confessed, it felt he was a ‘true’ Christian, he should never get depressed. I am neither a theologian nor a mental health expert, but I think its time we ‘face our demons’ of mental illness and our faith.
Here is a great little blog from someone who knows all about mental illness from his own lived experience. Read Jason Chesnut’s I’m a Pastor with Depression. For years I Thought I had to Hide It.
Our church is supporting a new national inter-faith project on Spirituality and Well-being. If you’d like to know more or get involved, make contact with any of the organisers. It was kicked off this week with a symposium in Wellington on Spirituality and Mental Health, and you can hear Dr Richard Egan interviewed on National Radio about the symposium.