Struggling with Mental Illness

Mental Illness

By Marilyn Pritchard

Mental illness is not something we talk about much in the church, and yet Christians are not immune to mental health disorders. Chances are there’s a woman in your Bible study who suffers from depression. A teen in your youth group likely struggles with an eating disorder. That service member who just came back from a tour of duty may have PTSD. And that couple who sits in front of you at church may have just learned that their child is bipolar.

One in four Americans suffer from some sort of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the church is no exception. According to a recent survey of pastors as well as individuals with mental illness and their families, 59% of pastors surveyed had counseled someone who eventually received a diagnosis of acute mental illness, and 23% of the pastors had themselves struggled with mental illness of some kind.

Mental health experts agree that people with mental illness face a lot of stigma and shame, and parents of children with mental illness deal with denial and grief.

So how should the church respond? 

The church has an opportunity to be a place of healing. Among the ways that individuals with mental illness said the church could be helpful were:

  • Talk about it openly so the subject isn’t considered taboo.
  • Improve people’s awareness of what mental illness is and how prevalent it is.
  • Offer resources and support for individuals with mental illness and their families.
  • Provide training for the church to understand it better.

An overwhelming majority of those with mental illness said they would simply like someone in the church get to know them as a friend.

Is your church equipped to walk alongside people who are experiencing mental illness? Would you know how to respond if someone came to you for help? Or perhaps you are the one who is facing the diagnosis of yourself or a family member and don’t know where to turn. 

There are resources online, but also, Just Between Us (JBU) has compiled some articles to help you navigate this challenging issue. Some women have shared their personal stories about PTSD, eating disorders, and depression. Others have written about family members’ struggles with schizophrenia, personality disorder, and even suicide.

Take a look at these articles and the ones listed below. We pray that you will find comfort in their stories as you discover similarities to your own, peace in knowing that God can meet your needs in the midst of your own struggles with mental illness, and strength to reach out and find the support you need in your church family.

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