As I have shared in some of my previous posts God has been leading me to a realization that my calling to ministry is to be partnered with a calling to mental health. This partnership between Christian ministry and an understanding of mental health is something that is highly needed and often missing in the church. On the other hand, the understanding of the spiritual realm is almost completely missing from the mental health field. I am not yet an expert in psychology and my formal education is limited to a high school Intro to Psychology course that I took 13 years ago, but I do have almost seven years of experience working with clients who have an SPMI diagnosis. I also partner that with an extensive knowledge of the Bible and many years of experience in Christian ministry. So that being said I thought I would address some issues I feel are keeping the church and the mental health field separate:
Science vs. Religion:
The underlying issue of it all is the constant conflict between science and religion. Psychology is considered a social science and psychologists consider themselves to be scientists. Scientists tend to think that science and religion are opposites and can not work together. Because of this many Christians are wary of anything with the title science. This is seen throughout all scientific fields including psychology.
The Issue of Demon Possession:
Many Christians often assume that mental illness is an automatic sign of demonic possession, this is not always the case. However psychologists seem to generally deny the spiritual aspect all together. Just like with bodily illness, mental illness is sometimes directly connected to demonic possession or oppression and sometimes it is simply a sickness, which is just a less direct attack from the enemy. Either way God's power can come in and free the person of that. But, as with sickness, sometimes God works through proven methods of treatment in order to bring healing. Just like he might work through a doctor to bring healing to the person with cancer, he might choose to work through psychiatrists and therapists to bring healing to the person with schizophrenia or severe depression.
On the other hand, there is clear evidence in the scriptures of actual demonic possession and I believe that does happen today and can manifest in a similar manner as mental illness. This is why a Christian working in the mental health field needs to have their spirit attuned to the Holy Spirit and should ask for the gift of discerning of spirits. If you do not have the gift of discerning of spirits, or you are not sure that it is demonic possession it is best to treat it as mental illness. I have met people who were literally scarred for life by churches, who probably meant well, attempting to cast out a demon when there wasn't one there to be cast out.
Mental Health Awareness:
Overall my point for writing this post, as disorganized as it may be, is just to help spread awareness. Statistically mental illness is a lot more prevalent than most of us realize. Many people are only exposed to the idea of mental illness when the media discusses the latest mass murderer but the majority of mental health clients are just people living their life like you and me. They just have an extra hindrance to fully enjoying that life which they are learning to cope with and to overcome. We as the church should be looking out for these people because we have a hope through Jesus Christ that the mental health psychologists and psychiatrists don't necessarily have. through Christ we can help bring joy to the severely depressed, peace those with mood disorders, and deliverance to those with schizophrenia or other mental illness.