Written by Lydia D’Ross, Ordained Minister and Outreach Chaplain for Renewal at Brookhaven Hospital
Stigma surrounds mental health in some of our church denominations. Yet, in the midst of our congregation, there are people suffering from some sort of mental health crisis. If you ever wondered, why a member constantly wants your attention, it might be because the treatment they need is beyond your ministry scope of practice. That’s okay. The best thing you can do in the situation is to refer them to a mental health professional.
Not all depression is long term, but sometimes due to grief or recent trauma; depression can often be treated in several counseling sessions by a mental health provider. Most health providers are now trained to treat from a holistic approach.
I think some of the stigma in the faith communities is rooted in this belief: “Use your faith and you will be healed.” That is not the way we apply our faith. We first learn the root of the problem, learn new coping strategies and begin to use and apply our faith towards healing. Faith needs something to work with.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Health [NAMI] in a 2002 study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project , people in the US have said that “…religion plays a very important role” in their personal lives.
The impact of religion and mental health seemed relevant enough to cause a change in the 1994 revision of the American Psychiatric Association (APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which added a new diagnostic category (V62.89) called “religious or spiritual problem.” (American Psychiatric Association, 1994, p 300)
What is really troubling to the mental health professional community is that some pastors have no background in mental health and may not know how and when to refer someone for additional help.
Concerned about increase of depression and deaths by suicide, NAMI has developed a Mental Health Ministry guide in order to help educate pastors, so that they can have a better awareness in what to look for when providing spiritual counseling.
The good news is, we have counselors who are now more trained in spiritual care and psychiatric hospitals like Brookhaven that offers Renewal Christian Care services if the patient chooses to participate.
Christians need to know that there is nothing wrong in getting additional help. In fact, it is the opposite of having insufficient faith. Getting help will strengthen your faith.