The Stigma Around Mental Illness in the Church

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The National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief reported that eight percent of “adults older than 20 reported having depression during a given two-week period. Of that total, the prevalence of depression among women was almost double that seen in men.” Major depression is the second most debilitating condition, second to cardiovascular disease.

In addition to a chemical imbalance in the brain, culture plays an influential role in depression. Many Christians feel increasingly isolated because of the world we live in. They’re fearful because of persecution. We can see what children are subjected to in public schools and society.

They’re dealing with transgender males running against females on track teams and are afraid speak out. Children and parents must watch what pronouns they use for classmates. The news media and social media are continually vying for our attention — leading to mental burnout. These external factors all can influence or fuel depression. Many are fearful to seek the church for help, as mental health is a subject not very pretty. Most pastors aren’t equipped either.

A LifeWay Research and Focus on the Family survey discovered a gap in what pastors said their churches implemented and what was available for congregants dealing with mental health challenges. There was a prominent breakdown in communication on addressing the issue from the pulpit. “Only a quarter of churches (27 percent) have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness according to pastors. And only 21 percent of family members are aware of a plan in their church.”

Sixty-eight percent of pastors, according to the study, said the church has a list of local mental health resources for church members. Many members also didn’t know resources were available to them.

As a church body, we need to address depression locally and globally. It doesn’t have to be a taboo topic anymore. If you need help, talk to your family physician, your pastor or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for more resources in your area. We’re here for you as well. Our Action Place social media platform is a community of believers who can pray and support you.

Consider the following reassuring Scriptures. “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:6-7).”

Corinthians 4:8-12 is another reminder that we are hard-pressed “but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

Depression is complex. If you are grappling with depression, communicate with someone, and find help. There are more of you in the Christian community than you know. Talk to a friend, pastor, family member or healthcare professional about your struggle. You’re not alone.

Corine Gatti-Santillo has spent two decades as an editor, investigative reporter and web content strategist; her work has appeared in The Christian Post, LifeZette, The Washington Post, CBN, among other outlets. She’s host of the program “Mom on the Right” on The Liberty Beacon TV. She and her husband, Rocky, live in Virginia with their infant daughter and yellow lab Maggie.

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