Sometimes when I speak about the number of Christians who believe that mental illness is either less significant of an issue than a physical health issue or brought on by spiritual illness such as lack of faith or possession, I feel as if I am underselling the Church. I personally know so many Christians who do not see things this way, and I by no means wish to paint my fellow believers as not informed or stubborn on these issues.
But, a recent report from LifeWay Research tells us just how many in the church underestimate or do not understand mental illness. The group surveyed conservative, evangelical, or born-again Christians on their beliefs about mental illness. Nearly half of those asked believed that with prayer and Bible study alone, serious mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can be healed.
Given, this survey focused on the sector most likely to hold these beliefs, but it is still disheartening to see how far we have to go in educating those within our church about the reality of mental illness. As Phil Monroe suggests, the results most likely show that many Christians believe that symptoms described by the medical world as “mental illness” are only or mainly character or behavior problems. I would also suggests many believe mental illness could also be the result of spiritual illness or weakness.
Prayer and Bible study are both incredible tools against mental illness. God heals us all, but he does so in many different ways. Sometimes, rarely, there are miracles where one is healed through divine intervention. More often, God opens other avenues of treatment for us. God has lead us to where we are and given us the ability to help ourselves. His word supports us through our struggles, but he also leads us to counseling, treatment, and medication when appropriate to help us heal our physical bodies.