Treating Mental Illness with Compassion - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Everyday Living Graduate Studies
October 10, 2019

Treating Mental Illness with Compassion

The main theme and focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day, which has been celebrated every October 10th since 1992, is suicide prevention. While giving in to despair and ending one’s life is not a new phenomenon, suicidal ideation has increased over the past few decades at alarming speed.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people end their lives each year. Many more attempt to do so and fail. Suicide is the number one cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 to 29 years of age. More and more children and teens are turning to suicide as a result of bullying, cyberbullying, sexual abuse and violence. The goal in selecting suicide prevention as 2019’s World Mental Health Day theme is to attract the attention of governments around the globe to this alarming trend.

Mental Health Issues are Shunned as Taboo

Mental health issues tend to be a taboo subject and one about which many people have mistaken and prejudiced ideas. This is unfortunate because many people are suffering needlessly and in silence, including Christians who should be able to turn to their church family for support. Approximately 20% of all U.S. citizens experience some form of mental illness each year. Around 25% of the world’s population will be affected by mental illness at one time or another in their lives.

The attitudes of many Christians and clergy members towards mental illness are changing, but society’s attitude as a whole continues to cause people to suffer in silence rather than risk being shunned because of a perceived stigma associated with mental illness.

As the world faces greater turmoil and uncertainty, mental health issues will only continue to rise. This means that an increasing number of people will be dealing with some level of mental illness—from anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, various phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder to more serious mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder.. Perhaps you know of individuals who suffer mostly in silence, unsure of where or whom to turn to.

What can be Done for Mental Illness?

People have been searching for answers to questions concerning mental illness for centuries. And although society is constantly making strides toward better mental health outcomes, we still have a long way to go.Schools need to better educate students about mental health, and people must be willing to surrender preconceived notions and walk in another’s shoes. Sadly, that all takes time.

So, what is a person to do who is dealing with mental illness right now?

Sadly, those struggling with mental illness often face opposition in the church. Mental illness victims have heard it said to them that “if you just prayed about it, you wouldn’t be suffering”. While prayer should always be the first thing to do in any situation, God has also placed professionals in our lives to assist us in these difficult situations.”A person dealing with cancer, heart disease or some other life-threatening illness would go see a doctor to see what can be done. They would get a professional opinion.

Those with a mental illness should do the same. Why should seeking relief from mental illness be any different than that for a physical illness? Why should anyone feel guilt or shame for having an illness—physical or mental?

Those who suffer from mental illness need treatment; they need to get past whatever reason prevents them from getting help. Whether they need some type of counseling to deal with a particular issue, prescription medications to overcome chemical imbalances or a combination of the two, they have to get to the point where they’re willing and able to pursue treatment.

Mental Illness is not a Sign of Weakness

 Mental illness is a legitimate, clinical condition that should be treated with the same compassion as any other medical condition. Individuals ought to be counseled by caring professionals who can help them realize they are not at fault for their illness. 

Having said that, we cannot neglect the power of prayer. Jesus himself sought out His heavenly Father daily as He lived out His life on this earth. He, too, experienced distress and anguish, even to the point of sweating blood while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion. (Luke 22:44)

What can you do as a Christian if you find yourself dealing with some form of mental illness? Remember these Biblical truths:

  •     Remember that God loves you and is always there for you—Psalm 55:22, Psalm 23:1-6
  •     No matter what you feel or what issues you are dealing with, you are not alone—Psalm 34:18-19
  •     Trust that Jesus came to give you abundant life and joy—John 10:10
  •     God has good plans for you and your life—Jeremiah 29:11
  •     You shouldn’t be anxious or fearful; God will strengthen you and uphold you—Isaiah 41:10
  •     Jesus is always ready to comfort you and grant you peace—John 14:27

Remember, too that God continues to heal people every single day. If you pray to Him for your healing, His answer may be yes. If you do find, however, the answer to be no, remember what the Word says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” If God chooses to heal or not to heal, He has His reasons. We have to trust and know that God is in control, and patiently await his timing

Be Prepared to Help Yourself and Others

Geneva offers several degree options which allow you to work directly with those who have been impacted by suicide and mental illness in our Biblical Studies, Ministries and Philosophy department and our Psychology and Social Services department. Additionally, Geneva offers a CACREP-accredited Master of Arts degree in Counseling with three tracks: Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling; Clinical Mental Health Counseling; and Professional School Counseling.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically-based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.