As studies continue to show how ill-equipped many churches are in ministering to Christians who struggle with mental illness, some who were once among the faithful are now speaking out about how the spiritualizing of their conditions in church culture forced them to flee.
In a recent discussion sparked by a rant in a subreddit of more than 40,000 anonymous former Christians, many shared stories about how they were forced to suffer as their evangelical churches and family members urged them to pray away conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and ADD before they were finally able to get help. Some, like one critic identified as just reib0t in the discussion, never got the help they needed until they were adults.
“I am 30 and was recently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder,” the former Christian began.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness describes schizoaffective disorder as a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression. It is often treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.
“As a TEENAGER I said to the Christian I looked up to, ‘Hey, I hear voices and see shadow people everywhere, also I want to kill myself.’ And I was told it was just ‘spiritual warfare’ and Satan fighting for my soul. I was told to NOT seek therapy because therapists work for the devil to drive people away from the Lord,” the ex-Christian wrote.
“I believed it easily because of the nature of my illness. He downplayed and contorted my illness so badly that even after I stopped believing in God, it took me years to get into therapy and get treatment. My life spiraled into drug abuse to cope, lost job after lost job, and my 20s wasted in pain,” the person wrote.
The individual explained that since they decided to get professional help, their life has changed for the better.
“I feel a lot better on medication, have better understanding, and am looking forward to my 30s being a lot better in general, but… I think back to my teenage years and wonder what my life could have been if I wasn’t Christian and got on the right meds much sooner. F**k the evangelical Christian view on mental health,” reib0t said.
About one in four Americans are estimated to suffer from some kind of mental illness in any given year, NAMI says, and many, according to LifeWay Research, turn to the church for help.
A 2014 study by the Nashville-based research organization, which was co-sponsored by the conservative organization Focus on the Family and the family of a man who endured schizophrenia, pointed to the lack of awareness and help available to Christians who turn to the church for help with mental illness.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair