Don’t let religion stop you from seeking help for mental health

Pray and things will get better. If you have enough faith, it will go away. God always takes care of his own. Sickness is not for you.

Many of us have heard this pontification numerous times as we seek help for our mental health. As a Christian, I do believe that prayer and counselling for mental health matters should be encouraged.

I am also a firm believer in the use of medication, and seeking help from mental health professionals. And I’m of the opinion that this should be encouraged by those in the faith.

Mental illness is not punishment for sin. It is not a sign that those who have it are worse than the unaffected. Neither does it mean that we are cursed. It is just an invisible illness. And just as visible illnesses require some form of medical intervention for an improved prognosis, the same is often the case with mental illness. This is why there are now experts in the fields of psychology and psychiatry.

It is dangerous when believers of any faith try to put mental illness down to lack of faith on the part of the sufferer. Dangerous because this deeply affects peoples quality of life, interaction with their faith (which may often be their only source of hope), and could jeopardise their seeking of medical intervention.

Also, it is not just a case of sufferers refusing to think positively. Trust me, if mere positive thinking was all it took to be healed forever, one in four of us wouldn’t be affected. This is not fun.

It is always easy to pontificate when you aren’t (as deeply) affected!

We need to be careful not to discount the negative experiences of others even if we don’t fully understand what it is they are going through.

For too long many people have been walking around metaphorically whipping themselves on the back in the belief that their mental illness is punishment for their sins. This is worsened when instead of being signposted to mental health experts, these individuals are told to pray harder. Told that if their faith is strong enough they should be healed.

It’s a painful thing to walk on eggshells around those whom you share the same faith with, who perpetuate the idea that the hardship you are experiencing doesn’t belong in their midst. This feeds into the harmful silence that plagues our society regarding mental illness.

People are suffering and they often don’t speak up because they know their issues require more than exorcism. What they need is a good psychologist/psychiatrist!

This is why when I came across the twitter brouhaha surrounding Pastor Sam Adeyemi’s tweets on mental illness, my heavy heart fell even more.

[Source]

Read the full story on BellaNaija here.

Beloved, those of us who are suffering one mental illness or another already walk around with enough baggage. The last thing we need is to be further othered with the false guilt of sins we cannot remember committing (because we didn’t!) which have resulted in our current state.

We need to open our hearts and minds to the possibility that mental illness does not have a spiritual root cause.

This story first appeared on aKomanet.com, here.