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The Church and Mental Health

In the previous edition of Sunrise, we began a dis-course on the subject of Mental Health and The Church. We looked at the very origin of sicknesses and death in the story of mankind. We gained the understanding that ever since the fall of man in the garden, the seed of sin was sown and the fruit borne out of it was death.

We also have the understanding that Man was made in the image of a Triune God, and therefore created as a tripartite being. Essentially, man is a spirit living inside a body and having a soul. The body being the container of Man’s spirit and soul and, the visible part of Man with which he interacts with the physical world. If the body gets damaged to the extent that it is no longer able to interact with the physical world, then the spirit of the man takes leave of him, together with his soul. Apart from physical trauma, the major event that leads to the damage of the man’s body is ill health, brought about by diseases. Therefore, physical health is an indication of the well being of a person’s body. Moreover, we understand that a man’s soul is the seat of his mind, intellect and emotions. It is the part of the man that defines his or her personality. As a man’s body or his physical aspect can be affected by sicknesses and diseases, his soul can also be so affected. In Mental health, an attempt is being made to determine the wellbeing of a person’s soul (mind, emotion and intellectual capacity).


From our previous discourse, we have agreed that for a man or woman to be deemed as being healthy, he or she must be healthy mentally as well as physically. If we agree that the brain of a man is the physical representation or the seat of his or her soul, then if anything happens to this organ, definitely the mental state of such a person would be affected. The mental health status of a person can largely impact upon their physical health also. This is why it has become very necessary that individuals seek help from doctors to treat mental illness in the same way they do with physical illness. Mental illness can eventually lead to a host of physical problems also. It is rather shocking that more attention and funds are being geared towards physical healthcare compared to that of Mental Health although many charities are endeavouring to raise awareness of the dangers of minimising the effect of the mind on the body.


A lot of research and academic work has been carried out on the interplay of faith, spirituality, theology and mental health. Attempts have been made to answer questions like:

“Are all Mental Health problems traceable to the Spiritual Realm?”

“Does your faith in God guarantee sound Mental Health?”

“What roles, if any, can Theology, Faith and Spirituality play in Mental Health care delivery?”

Christopher Cook, a Professor of Spirituality, Theology and Health in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, and an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist at one of the NHS foundations in the United Kingdom, wrote a book titled, “Spirituality and Psychiatry.” He also edited another book titled, “Spirituality, Theology & Mental Health”, which is a compendium of writings from multidisciplinary perspectives. Browsing through these two books, it is very easy to conclude that the importance of Theology and Spirituality in Mental Healthcare delivery has been undervalued for a long time. Though in Medieval times, spirituality had been the major recourse to mental healthcare delivery. However, during the recent times of great advancement in Medicine, it seems that the role of spirituality and faith in mental health has been relegated to the background and a lot of “faith” has now been placed in the ingenuity of modern-day medicine and medical practitioners. Interestingly, a revival in the acceptance of a major role for faith and spirituality in the matter of Mental Health is currently taking place in the 21st Century. Through the works of many professionals and clergies like those contributors to the books mentioned above, it is now clear that faith and spirituality have been proved very effective in the treatment of some psychiatric illnesses.


The major outcome from the fall of man in the Bible is that the seed of sin was sown. The seed of the “Weed” was introduced into the “Wheat” Farm. Henceforth, the harvest would no longer be pure wheat, but wheat containing varying amounts of tares or weed-although it is important to note that the tares would look very much like the wheat to the untrained eyes. What we are trying to say is that since the fall of Man, sickness and disease became the norm. The fact is that majority of us will suffer one physical or mental ill health or another in our lifetime.

Another truth, which is the answer to one of the questions we posed earlier on is: the fact that you are deeply religious and highly spiritual does not preclude you from being mentally un-well. We have an appropriate example in the Bible, of that great Prophet of God called Elijah. After a major supernatural experience with Jehovah, which resulted in a national spiritual revival, Elijah plunged into the valley of despair, depression and suicidal tendencies. What caused this sudden mental upheaval for someone with such spiritual stature? He received a piece of horribly threatening news from the Queen of the land who was known to be an agent of the Evil supernatural. Another example is the case of the man of the Gadarenes whom Jesus healed in the Gospel, it was obvious that his mental health was re-stored only after Christ had prayed for him. So we see in these two examples, that many (not all) mental health issues have spiritual origins. Therefore, for many of these issues, the ONLY effective solution would have to be through the spiritual realm.


The Church-the Body of Christ must arise and play her role in bringing help and relief to members of her community that are going through one Mental Health problem or the other. The key virtue and grace that need to be deployed by the Church is Compassion; deep compassion for that matter. In almost all the cases when Jesus Christ performed one miracle or the other, we were told that He was moved with com-passion for the people or the individuals concerned. He never condemned anybody and neither did He put a “label” on them. This is the major problem that the people in the church have today. We are very quick to put one label or the other on people, especially if they are suffering from one mental ailment or another. After the “labelling” process, we then proceed to pass one judgment or the other on them. We forget that we our-selves are not perfect in all our ways and lives. So why should we think we are better than others?

The Church of God must reach out with love and compassion in our hearts and give support to members of our communities experiencing mental health challenges. We must rise up by organising Support Groups that would be committed to prayers and other “talk-therapies”, both for the people with these conditions as well as their families.


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