It is estimated that as many as 40 percent of people who need serious mental health care do not get it, according to a Sept. 21 report by the Connecticut Post. And Focus on the Family is concerned that the whole issue of mental health is being largely ignored by the Church due to a lack of understanding regarding how to help families who have mentally ill loved ones.
That is why the Christian organization has partnered with Lifeway Research, conducting a study of acute mental illness and the Christian faith. The study results show that one out of four American persons suffers from some form of mental illness each year. A staggering finding that is made even more so when the study points out that these individuals cannot expect much help when they arrive at church on Sunday mornings. But Focus on the Family hopes to help change that by increasing awareness on the topic of mental health, while simultaneously working with church leaders to equip them with the tools they need to lead their congregations into becoming a haven of help and hope for the afflicted.
Depression, Schizophrenia and Bipolar are still dirty words in many circles of society today due to the shame and stigma attached to these very real mental health conditions. And one of the goals of the research gleaned from the Focus on the Family partnership with Lifeway Research is to help put a more realistic and less shameful face on a very real problem facing society and the church. This is accomplished in part by educating the congregations of believers in America, which still may labor under the illusion that those suffering from mental illness in some way contributed to their condition–bringing it upon themselves, so to speak, instead of inheriting it, like many other illnesses and diseases.
Report findings include the facts that: “Depression is an illness most familiar to all of the medical experts,” and those individuals who are Bipolar “face challenges in areas that are their best avenues for making progress,” like their “difficulty in connecting with God and others” and the “trouble making relational connections.” And then there are some who do not understand that those who are Schizophrenic suffer from a brain disease, not a lifestyle choice. Schizophrenia, like depression and bipolar conditions, is “seen in all faiths, religions, and is found in all socio-economic strata.”
Do you have a loved one suffering from mental health issues? Has the shame and stigma hindered you or them from seeking the help they need, including the ability to talk to their church leaders about their condition–and not fear more social stigma and gossip as a result? If so, there are other support groups and networks available that provide confidential and supportive services locally and state-wide outside the faith arena. But hopefully the Focus on the Family effort to bring more understanding to this struggling section of the American population will result in greater awareness at the spiritual worship levels, so those who suffer from depression, bipolar or schizophrenia will at least find some support from the one institution that should be the first to give it–and to do it in a less stigmatizing way: The Church.