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Mental Health - Prayer and Care Together
by Sim Lee
3/10/2019 / Health
"We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,," Romans 15:1 KJV
Sadly, today's churches are being asked more than ever to help those who come to them with mental health issues. Whether seeking help as strangers who mainly come from a welfare or homeless situation, or from within the church membership, they see the church as a place of refuge and resource open to all.
Although the church is the probably the least qualified entity to be providing any sort of therapy for the mentally ill, many leaders and members of Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches still attempt to do so, usually doing more harm than good.
The Southern Baptist Convention estimates that 50% of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists still believe that all mental illness can be cured with a program of prayer and bible study. With no further action taken, the person is usually left to their own device to seek professional help, and many do not.
Many of these people will have personal stories like those among the more than 40,000 stories posted by former Christians who were advised as children to "pray away" their Bi-polar and ADD disorders. Out of desperation, they would eventually leave the church to get away from that long-term negative experience, usually never getting any professional mental health treatment until they were adults.
Granted, prayer for the sick is by far the most necessary and valuable action one can take to care for one another, but things should not end there with mental health issues.
Because of increasing need, many churches now have panels in place specifically to deal with getting help for the mentally ill who come to them. The medical institutions they work with are chosen for their reputable and supportive reputations and for their willingness to advise on possible liability issues regarding privacy laws, policies and civil concerns.
To get a better idea of the extent of these demand on churches, one only need reflect on the increase from what was one out of five (60 million) in America suffering some sort of mental illness each year to a present ratio of 1 out of 4 (75 million)**
Further, looking at the average church congregation today you will find that:
1. One-half of all adults suffer from mental illness at sometime during their lifetime.
2. One in five children will develop a mental illness by age 18 and one-half of all chronic mental illness starts at age 14.
3. Of all of people who commit suicide, 90-percent also had an associated mental illness.
Bearing in mind all of today's legal and ethical challenges that are a part of your decision to help another person, if someone were to come to your church with such a request, are you willing to give them your full effort of prayer and encouragement, and to offer the effective assistance they would need in order to seek professional help? Have you even thought about it?
I think that Lutheran Pastor Phil Lee, who has personally helped over 500 other Pastors to request and receive mental illness treatment, said it best in acknowledging that mental illness requires prayer, supplemented with help to enable or refer people who seek help with mental health issues:
"It really does require different interventions along with Scripture and prayer".. Phil Lee
Prayer and care together is the response of the majority of churches regarding mental health issues, and perhaps all churches will embrace that approach someday soon.
* "As churches struggle to help Christians with mental illness, many flee", by Leonardo Blair, 2/24/2019 - CP Church
** "Hope for Mental Illness" - Huffington Post 8/2015
Sim Lee is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.
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