Mental illness has held a very distasteful stigma since the dawn of time. During the bible period, when it was mentioned, people who had mental issues were quietly put away and forgotten. With all the liberation this world has experienced, mental illness is still unsupported and not addressed in the church. Well, to be corrected, when the pastors do preach mental health, some usually use prayer in the same sentence as a cure. Some will go as far as to say that the cause of any mental illness is because the person does not have a good relationship with God or open to evil influences.
Depression in both men and women (the symptoms are at times manifested very differently in the sexes) affects everyone including ‘devoted church people.’ It is hard to believe that this particular ailment, being so prevalent in the general populace, is not being acknowledged in the churches. Unawares to many, there are church members who are considered ‘functioning depressive.’ This describes people who are generally unhappy with or without suicidal thoughts, hopeless feelings etc but still fight to be able to hold it together for church worships, going to work Mondays through Fridays and appear ‘normal.’ The difference is these devoted Christians suffer in silence. The face of today’s mental illness is not some wild, unkept person, ranting and raving nonsense. It is you, your neighour, your church brother or sister; It is people you do not suspect.
It has nothing to do with one’s faith. It is something that just is and many Christians experience a troubled mental state at one aspect of their lives or another while others struggle with it throughout. Praying things away have not always worked; neither is hiding it under a bushel. Jesus, interestingly, mingled with the crazies and it took an act of God to cure them but for some reason, the modern religious zealots believe that prayer will do the trick. This is not to say that prayer does not help and miracles happen.
It means that sometimes additional help and support in conjunction with prayer is needed and should be encouraged. Mental illness is not a sin anymore. It is not different from someone seeking help for cancer, asthma, or needing glasses because s/he can not see. How does the church handle mental illness? The crazy thing is there is no answer because like a lot of things that affect Christians, the church remains silent or absent.