A Question of Sanity: Mental Health & the Church

A week after the sad news that actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life, the shock has worn off. His suicide has brought a lot of talk to the forefront about mental health issues. That’s about the only good that can really be said about something as tragic as this.

robin-williams-quoteQuestioning Our Sanity

It also goes to show that you never know what will drive a person to take such a drastic and irrevocable act. I’ve had moments in my own life when I’ve wondered how I was going to get through another day. I’ve also had periods of severe depression and questioning my own sanity.

In those dark moments, what has made the difference is my relationship with Jesus. I long to be with Him, but not at the expense of what it would cause my family. That is what I think in my rational moments.

When you suffer with mental illness or depression it is easy to get caught up in negative thinking and feeling like there is no way out.

Over the past few years since the healing of my mother wound, I’ve become free of a lot of the ‘demons’ and internal voices that wanted me to believe I was not sane, too different, too emotional, too whatever.

stop-the-stigma-of-mental-illnessA Change in Perspective

As I came to understand that some of my own compulsive behaviors were not necessarily defects of character, but were symptoms of my ADHD, I started to give myself more grace. And eventually I turned to medication—something I never could’ve done in the past. I watched what medication did to my mentally ill mother. It scared me and scarred me.

I’ve been on medication for my ADHD for over eight months now. It isn’t a panacea, but it has made a difference in my life. Better yet, my son’s successes with medication for his ADHD have turned his life around. Because of our experiences, I am now a believer in the need for medication. No more white-knuckling it for us.

Mental illness, depression, and yes, ADHD, are real health problems in our society. They have carried a stigma for far too long. Isn’t it time that changed?

Mental Health & the Church

I’ve been blessed to be a participant in and serve in Celebrate Recovery (CR), a Christian 12-step program that helps people deal with their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Those hang-ups are often thought of as addictions like alcohol and drugs.

depression quoteUnfortunately, the general public commonly believes that CR is a program for ‘those people.’ Being in CR has shown me that we are all ‘those people’ because we all have some sort of struggle that we need Jesus’ help to overcome—including depression, anxiety, rejection, and struggles with shame and worthiness.

Because of my passion for spiritual and emotional healing and my affiliation with CR, I was particularly pleased to hear about a bigger movement in the Church to address mental health issues. In March 2014, the Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, involving Catholic and Evangelical cooperation, was hosted at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA.

Celebrate Recovery: A Safe Place to Share

Saddleback Church is also the founding church of Celebrate Recovery, where I recently attended the annual CR Summit. Just as CR has been one of the signature issues at Saddleback, Senior Pastor Rick Warren is also taking on the role of mental health in the church as a signature issue there. And John Baker, founder of CR, is developing new teaching materials to address mental health issues.

Your struggle is not identityI’m excited to see the implementation of this new information in our teaching materials. CR leaders are not trained counselors or medical professionals. As facilitators of spiritual and emotional growth, we are also keenly aware of how emotionally empty, depressed, or alone people can feel when they enter recovery. (We’ve been there ourselves.) We are on the lookout for suicidal tendencies and refer people to the help they need. Our chief focus is to provide a safe place for people to share their struggles, to feel accepted, and to know that they are not alone.

Depression feeds on isolation.

After a personal testimony was shared at the conference in March, Pastor Rick Warren commented to the presenter: “Your chemistry in your brain is not your character and your illness is not your identity. You are a follower of Christ who struggles with mental illness, but your struggle does not define you… Jesus defines you.”

Overcoming that kind of stigma and identity struggle is just one of the ways Jesus shows up through the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. It gives hope to the hopeless.

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Looking for a Celebrate Recovery program in your area? Click here to find a meeting near you.

For more information about Celebrate Recovery or to read recovery related blog topics, check out CelebrateRecoveryOnThePlateau.org.

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2 Comments

  1. Jeannie

     /  August 25, 2014

    I couldn’t agree more with you, Ardis. People cannot help it if they have an imbalanced chemistry in their brain! Today, many people with serious mental illnesses are able to function normally with medication. It’s sad that the people who are ALREADY suffering with a mental illness often times aquire more suffering by receiving rejection because of their mental condition.
    I don’t believe a person can use a mental illness as an excuse for unacceptable behavior, but in order to change, there needs to be safe places to talk about their struggles SO THEY CAN LEARN HOW TO behave properly. Otherwise, they who need the most help don’t have any hope for change! To me, this is why someone would consider taking their own life. They cannot see how change is possible so they decide to quit trying FOREVER.
    I have two close family members and a niece with a serious mental illness. These people are very dear to me in spite of their condition. It’s about time they get the SUPPORT they need instead of more hurt.

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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