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Pastor's Blog: Mental Illness

posted Oct 1, 2013, 1:51 PM by Matt Schmitz

Another mass shooting in the U.S. This time in Washington DC.


The former police commissioner of a large city said these incidents aren’t unusual, but they seem to be increasing in frequency & severity (i.e., number of persons killed).


Once again, the shooter is said to have had a history of mental illness.


Our understanding of mental illness is growing, but we still have a long way to go. Mental illness is defined as “any of various conditions characterized by impairment of a person’s normal cognitive, emotional or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors.”


26% of American adults will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (about 58 million people). For about 6% (1 in 17 Americans), the impairment is severe.


The most common mental illnesses are: depression, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.


While ministering in the inner city for 12 years, we came into contact with the mentally ill every day. At first, it was frightening.


For example, while preaching one Sunday, a woman started screaming and running around the sanctuary (with the ushers in hot pursuit), until finally she came to the platform and collapsed at my feet. After praying for her, I looked up and half the congregation was weeping while the other half had a horrified look on their faces.


On another occasion, a gentleman stood up and started screaming f-bombs at me. Again, the congregation was horrified. (I guess a crying baby or ringing cell phone isn’t so bad after all.)


Over time, however, we became comfortable having those who were mentally ill in our midst and we appreciated the opportunity to share Christ with them. We came to view the mentally ill as no different from the physically ill.


To those struggling with mental illness I say, “Get treatment.” Significant progress has been made in the treatment of mental illness. But, I would add this: Don’t neglect the spiritual as a factor (a factor) in mental illness – either as to cause and/or treatment. All sickness is rooted in our fallen-ness.


Within the church, we must not stigmatize mental illness, but “love on” the mentally ill as we would anyone who is struggling. In addition, those who struggle with mental illness should educate us as to their condition and let us know how we can help and encourage them.


Pastor Dan