May is now designated as Mental Health Month. Because of the last fourteen months, it is now more important than ever to address the mental health issues. I noticed that without the traditional forms of entertainment AKA distractions, like national team sports, suddenly individuals and society have to look at our mental and emotional problems in a new way. Suddenly, we have to examine ourselves and we often find that we do not like what we see. We also found that we are not as equipped to handle our problems as well as we think.
Now, huge disclaimer: I am not a trained professional. If you need help, seek a trained professional.
However, I feel like I can speak because my ongoing struggles with OCD and depression. I have struggled with both since I was a teenager. Over the years and having gone to Christian counseling multiple times, I have gained some very valuable tools. Through painful episodes, I have gained some insight that I feel like I can share publicly.
Recently, I was listening to Dr. Bobby Conway of The One Minute Apologist, a Christian apologist who has a show with his wife Heather plus a host. One show was on the mental health crisis that is in full bloom and Christians are behind the curve. The problem that many Christians treat depression and mental health issues with one of 3 responses:
- The problem is the person’s sin. Once that person repents of their sin, everything will be all right.
- Instead of the person’s sin, it is because that person needs to read the Bible more or pray more.
- Sweep the problem underneath the rug; no one talks about it because it is either taboo or too difficult.
According to Dr. Conway, options 1 and 2 miss the point and option 3 unfortunately is the status quo. When a person comes to a pastor or mental healthcare professional and complains of being depressed, disconnected, feeling anxious, or angry at the world, giving one of the three standard options can leave the person feeling guilty and even more discouraged.
Bobby and Heather Conway suggested 2 other possibilities:
4. Body-Mind imbalance
5. Spiritual warfare
As a trained nutritionist, Heather Conway suggested that perhaps our diet is one reason for our emotional problems. There are plenty of studies that connect our diet to our mental health. After all, the phrase “Comfort Food” has entered the lexicon; everyone has a list of foods that they eat whenever they are sad. Some of them are often fatty, sugary, or salty. Those are great in moderation or once in a while, but if those foods become coping mechanisms, that very act of eating become destructive. Conversely, a healthy diet and lifestyle often affects our mind and emotions as well. I know this is true; even 2 – 4 minutes of active shadow boxing clears the mind and emotions better than 4 hours of therapy.
Another issue is spiritual warfare. Because the Conways and their host has only 30 minutes on air, they can only speak to this issue so much. What many Christians forget is that there is a devil who has a host of minions who tempt and can bother us. I really don’t care if you are the nicest Christian full of love and grace and even hardened atheists like you. We all have an enemy below who would love to trip you up. The devil is described as a roaring lion on the prowl. If you have watched any nature shows, remember lions like to go after the weakest – the young, the old, and the sick who are often straggling. If you find yourself straggling and isolated, watch out.
I have also found the devil and his minions like to go after the strong ones too. The devil knows that they are the ones who are the greatest threats to the kingdom of hell. I often found I am the most tempted, the most depressed, the hardest pressed, weeks or months before, during, and especially after a missions trip.
So what is the bottom line – is it that person’s sin? Is it their failure to trust God and read the Bible more? Or is it their diet? Or spiritual warfare?
The short answer: Yes and No.
The real problem is not trying to identify which one or more of the four condition that person falls under. The real problem is the lack of compassion.
We have to treat mental illness just like physical illness. What would you do if you see a person coming to church with a broken leg? Tell them to “suck it up”? That it is all their fault?
What would you do if a woman came to church and said that their husband just walked out them? It is obvious that they are hurting emotionally. Tell them to “suck it up”? That it is all their fault?
What would you do if your best friend came up to you and says he is depressed and burdened with the cares of life?
The best answer: you silence your phone, sit and listen.