Word and Way,
Journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention
|Gary and Dana Lynch of First Baptist Church
of Bolivar, have a son, Adam, 21, who was
diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
Mental illness strikes Christian families, too
Mental health professionals recognize that mental illness defined by the American Psychiatric Association as "an illness that affects or is manifested in a persons brain" can be treated with medication and/or therapy. But society has lagged behind in that recognition, and many times the stigma that accompanies a person and family affected by a mental illness can be hurtful. And just as Christians can have cancer, Christians can be mentally ill. Here are two stories from Baptist families tied together by the fact that they each love someone who suffers from a mental illness.
By Tim Palmer
As a 16-year-old musical prodigy, Adam Lynch was
the subject of a 1997 profile in his hometown newspaper, the Bolivar Herald-Free
Press. His skill on the violin, which he began playing at age 4, had earned
him a place in the Springfield Symphony.
Source: the August 2, 2001 issue of the Word and Way.
Mental Illness is Not a Spiritual Problem
Column by Ron Kemp
There are some Christians who believe that mental
illness is just a spiritual
problem. They may be the same folks who see a person who is schizophrenic
and conclude the person is "demon possessed."
These people are the ones who conclude, "Jesus is called Counselor, therefore
Christians do not need to see a human counselor." They see absolutely no need for
a profession such as mine, whereas I tend to see what I do as a calling.
You, no doubt, know about the mindset of which I speak. These are the folks who
say, "If you just pray hard enough and read your Bible, you will be fine. You would
never need to see a counselor." Using the same logic, Jesus was also called the
"Great Physician." Yet Christians do not suggest that if you are a Christian you
should not see a doctor when you are physically ill.
Several years ago, I was working for a denominational system which believed
the church needed to be open to such human problems. I happened to be talking to
a layman about my work, and I indicated that we would be working with pastors
and their families.
At that, the layman said indignantly, "Then that person should not be a pastor.
" I explained that such a pastor would be full of integrity to admit his need, and
that pastors are no different from their church members.
Emotional problems and mental illness are human problems. Christians are
human and therefore subject to these kinds of problems.
It has been pretty well demonstrated that bi-polar illness (manic-depression),
depression and some other disorders are the result of chemical imbalances in
the brain. Certain mood disorders may be the result of bio-chemical imbalances
in the body.
The purpose of medications is to bring a systemic balance to the person who
is experiencing a mood disorder or mental disorder. Medications can be essential
to treating such difficulties.
Research shows that for the treatment of major depression, medications and
psychotherapy (talk therapy) are the most effective treatment. Medications alone,
or psychotherapy alone, are not as effective as a combination of the two.
Many years ago, when I was connected with a university, a young lady came
to me very depressed. On her second visit, she assured me that everything was
wonderful because in a prayer group her friends had prayed for her. Now she
had no more problems.
Within a few months, she was dead as the result of suicide. The young lady
was suffering from a bi-polar disorder. In this case, some good-intentioned
Christians were rather dangerous for her.
I am not saying that prayer and Bible study are not effective. I believe they are.
But just because some Christians make judgmental statements which disparage
counselors and medications for emotional and mental illnesses, dont let that keep
you from seeking the help you may need.
Ron Kemp is a marriage and family therapist in Bolivar
[and former affiliate of Southwest
Source: the August 2, 2001 issue of the
Word and Way.