Mental Illness Awareness

How do we treat mental illness? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

May is mental health awareness month. Mental health too often gets a bad stigma attached to it. Why is that? I don’t know, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that every time a mass shooting takes place, you immediately hear people talking about mental illness. Conclusion then reached? Mentally ill people are the ones doing shootings.

Now of course, it could be these people are mentally ill, but maybe they’re just evil people? Could it be you don’t need a mental illness to be evil? Could it be some people could be in their right mind and still pull off horrendously evil acts?

Mental illness sometimes gets it rough on TV shows and movies also. Look at the way mental hospitals are treated. Many patients in there are what we would refer to as crazy. Now in reality, mental hospitals are sadly usually awful places to go to. However, people who go there are not necessarily crazy.

Mental illness is not the extreme cases you see.

Mental illness includes someone like myself, an aspie who has a hard time with social situations and understanding those cues and tends to take things super literalistically.

Mental illness is the person who struggles with depression and wants to decide if they should even get out of bed that day or if they do, if that is the day that they will finally just do something to end it all.

Mental illness is the person who because of a personality disorder doesn’t know who they are fully and clings to other relationships trying to establish their worth and value.

Mental illness is the elderly spouse who has to be reminded who their spouse is everyday and can’t remember their own children.

Mental illness is the person who has a hard time leaving their house because they have to check repeatedly to make sure that they turned the stove off.

Mental illness is the teenage girl who is constantly starving herself or throwing up what she ate because she is trying to get the perfect body.

Mental illness is the young man with a pair of scissors cutting his own skin to release the tension and anxiety that he is feeling.

Mental illness is the person who would like to get some groceries at the store, but is scared to step out of their own house due to an intense agoraphobia.

Mental illness comes in many forms and sadly, it’s usually treated as a stigma. If physical hospitals were run the way mental hospitals were, they would not really last long at all. We can point to many organizations that deal with problems of physical health, and that’s great, but it’s much harder to think of a corresponding number with mental health issues.

In the Christian church, it’s easy to paint a picture of medications being something a Christian shouldn’t use when struggling with mental health. Now I don’t think we should jump to medication for every problem in mental health, but it is no sin to take a medication for mental health any more than it is to take an aspirin when you have a headache. We should remove the stigma in our churches against this.

And I know some of you are surely charismatic, but please stop saying every mental disorder is caused by a demon. That helps no one. I am not saying it cannot happen, but because someone has a mental condition, it doesn’t mean that they are possessed by a demon.

There is also no shame in seeking therapy. Why is it we talk about problems and struggles we have with friends and family, but when it comes to therapy, that’s suddenly looked down on as if you are weak? My wife and I both see a therapist. We find it extremely helpful. Please do not fear going to a therapist if you need it.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Please be aware of the people in your life who struggle with mental health issues and be there for them in the way that can help them the most. Please also remove the stigma on mental health, especially next time you hear of a mass shooting taking place. Most people with mental health problems you meet are not going to do something like that. They’re people just trying to make it in the world, like you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters