Apparently today is World Mental Health Day. One of the best articles I ever read was from a Guidepost a couple of years back. It was about Abraham Lincoln and his life long struggle with depression. Lincoln came from a very poor family. His mother died when he was only nine years old from a terrible illness. His only sister died giving birth to a stillborn child. He was suicidal more than once. When he was 32 he wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would be not one happy face upon the earth.” At that time, there were no effective treatments, and Lincoln was subjected to starving, bleeding, dunking in icy water, swallowing mercury, applying mustard rubs that burned his skin raw. Of course all of those “treatments” left him worse. Because of Lincoln’s depression he learned coping skills, developed wisdom, and gained amazing strengths including humor, humility, dedication to a great cause, and dependence on God. Many researchers are grateful Lincoln was not cured, because he might not have ended up becoming the great leader he was!
(Abraham Lincoln: A Courage Born of Depression by Elizabeth Sherrill, Contributing Editor From Guideposts Posted on Feb 12, 2018)
Many thoughts come to mind when I think about mental health. Some are from observations and things I’ve read and some are from personal experience. It is my belief that a person’s mental health is not in a separate compartment from their physical and spiritual health. All three affect each other. If a person has a physical illness it can definitely negatively impact their mental health. If a person isn’t where they should be spiritually in their relationship with Jesus, it could definitely negatively impact their physical and mental well-being. All that being said, however, I have personally witnessed those with a mental illness being told that they have a spiritual problem and if they would just get their “heart right”, their mental health would be better. I’m sorry, but that’s kind of like a well meaning person telling someone with a broken arm to “get their heart right with God” and it will cause their arm to heal. Or if a person has cancer and they refuse treatment and just “try to get closer to God” to make the cancer go away. It makes no sense!! Now, is a mental problem a little more abstract and definitely not as obvious/concrete as a physical illness, absolutely. It may need treatment that is different than a physical illness. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real or should be written off as a symptom of not having enough faith. Also, I want to point out that I truly believe God can and does heal any of the three areas: physical, mental, spiritual. He uses many different methods of healing- doctors, medicine, prayer, counseling, etc.
My takeaways are:
- Pray for and don’t judge someone who is struggling mentally. Ask God for wisdom in what to say to them and always treat that person the way you would want to be treated. We are called to love others, not judge or be condemning.
- Be very careful before assuming a mental illness is a spiritual problem.
- Don’t assume those with mental illnesses don’t have a purpose or can’t accomplish something great in their lives. (Examples: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Spurgeon, Mother Teresa)