WHI-1213 | Faith and Mental Illness

Sunday, 06 Jul 2014

While the church has often denounced the “prosperity gospel,” she has often fallen prey to a softer version that argues that if I go to church and am a nice person, I should not be afflicted in this life with any serious malady. Maladies, like mental illness, are often seen as resulting from a lack of faith or piety. These misconceptions greatly hinder how the church ministers to those who suffer from various illnesses. This week on the White Horse Inn, Dr. Michael Horton converses with special guest Amy Simpson, a freelance writer and editor at Christianity Today, concerning the pressing issue of mental illness that is all too common in our modern culture. Join the conversation as they discuss important questions like…. “Do you think part of this problem [in churches today concerning mental illness], that a lot of it might be, that we haven’t taken this seriously enough at the level of pastoral training and so when pastors say, ‘Yeah, we’re not really equipped for this conversation,’ and they feel nervous about initiating that conversation, part of that is because they’re just not trained? Do pastors need to know enough about mental illness, disorders, and mental health issues, to know what they don’t know, to know when to refer and to look for recognized signs?”

“Most people don’t realize just how common mental illness is and people are shocked when they learn that more than 25%, 26.2% of the adult population in the United States, is affected by a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. That means that an even higher number than that are affected by one at some point in their lifetime. It is very, very common…. Mental illness is more common than diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV, and AIDS combined in the United States. Mental illness is the #1 cause of disability in North America and it affects not only adults but young people, young children. The statistics for adults is 26.2%; for children its 20%. 1 in 5 children is affected by a mental illness or disorder. Sometimes children outgrow those problems; sometimes they don’t. A little known fact about mental illness is that it tends to strike people when they’re young. The average age of onset for an anxiety disorder, which is the most common form of mental illness in the U.S., is 11 years old. Half of all mental illnesses and disorders show up by age 14.”
– Amy Simpson
Mental Illness
Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions, behavioral patterns, or anomalies which cause suffering or an impaired ability to function in ordinary life — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. Pinpointing the exact cause is extremely difficult and is variegated in terms of the social, neurological, and psychological aspects of men and women.
Mental disorders are generally defined by a combination of how a person feels, acts, thinks, or perceives. This may be associated with particular regions or functions of the brain or the rest of the nervous system, often in a social context. Mental disorder is one aspect of mental health. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.
A mental illness can affect daily life, such as at work or in relationships. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medications and counseling (psychotherapy) through familial and communal support. Signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary, depending on the particular disorder, circumstances, and other factors.
(Adapted from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, s.v. “Diseases and Conditions: Mental Illness”)

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