Thursday, April 11, 2013

good reads {mental health and the church}

As someone who majored in an applied psychology at a religious university, I'm always interested in the conflation of psychology and Christianity.  To be honest, many times I cringe when I hear advice that Christians have been given in regards to mental health.  Mental health is always, always a difficult topic and there are a variety of opinions.  When you add in Christianity, the subject becomes even more difficult to navigate.

This week many Christians writers/bloggers have been addressing mental health as the son of a famous pastor died by suicide after a longtime battle against mental illness.  My deepest condolences go out to the Warren family during this time.  I am also remembering the many other families who have lost loved ones to suicide and (perhaps due to the callousness of the Church and poor theology) were left mourning in silence and, sadly, even shame.

Take the time today to read these post about mental illness and the Church.  It's an important topic and it needs to be addressed.  I've included an excerpt from each post.

Rick Warren (in an email sent out to his staff seen here at CNN)
I'll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said " Dad, I know I'm going to heaven. Why can't I just die and end this pain?" but he kept going for another decade.

Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience): What Christians Need to Know about Mental Illness
There are some who take communion and anti-depressants and there are those  who think both are a crutch. 
Come in close — I’d rather walk tall with a crutch than crawl around insisting like a proud and bloody fool that I didn’t need one.

Al Hsu (Christianity Today): When Suicide Strikes in the Body of Christ
Novelist Willa Cather, in her book My √Āntonia, offered this prayer at the funeral of a suicide: "Oh, great and just God, no man among us knows what the sleeper knows, nor is it for us to judge what lies between him and Thee." 

Kristen Howerton (Rage Against the Minivan): Rick Warren's Grief: The Comfort and Cruelty of Speculating on Suicide
When we hear about grieving parents it can be so tempting to try to assign blame, because if they aren’t to blame, then we have to grapple with the reality that sometimes, tragedy is senseless. This is an uncomfortable truth: awful things happen to children that parents cannot prevent.  It’s a truth so painful that we would rather throw grieving parents under the bus than face it. Searching for a familial reason for Matthew’s suicide allows us to believe that if we can avoid their mistakes, we can feel confident that mental illness will never ravage our own child.  We assuage our anxiety with the false notion that, if we do this parenting thing right, our child will be spared from ever struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. 
It’s comforting, but it is a lie. A lie we fuel through speculation at the expense of grieving parents.

Dianna E. Anderson (Faith and Feminism): Other People's Reasons and Our Narratives: On the Appropriation of Suicides
But consider this: whose story is it to tell when a person commits suicide? What right do we have to ascribe a meaning to their personal tragedy? 
Surely, the appropriation of another person’s story – especially to support a point about selfish willfulness – has to be considered, has to be weighed, and has to be understood. Surely, this distilling of a person’s story – complex, multi-faceted, and ultimately tragic – into one line is a microcosm of everything wrong with how we tell, appropriate and understand each other as people, as complex human beings, as sisters in Christ. Surely, we need to discuss how we talk about and handle suicide and depression.

Amy Simpson (Her.Menutics): Christians Can't Ignore the Uncomfortable Reality of Mental Illness
Recently, I've spent a lot of time writing and speaking up on behalf of people affected by mental illness and their families. I want to see the church embrace these people as we never have before, in keeping with our mission in this life.... 
As followers of Christ and as his representatives, we are called to follow his example. We are called to reach out to suffering people, to stick with them rather than shrink away. We are called to believe that no one is ever beyond hope, past the point where God's grace and love apply to them. God does not give up on people, even if they give up on themselves. After all, we are not called to have all the answers, understand all life's mysteries, or fix everyone's problems. But we are called to love.

Rebekah Lyons (CNN Belief Blog): My Take: Let’s Stop Keeping Mental Illness a Secret
As people of faith, let’s talk about mental illness, giving others permission to do the same. Let's release the stigma that keeps this a secret, holding untold millions captive. All secrets lose power when they exit the dark. The church is a place where we should be able to come as we are, with our longings for what we hope to be. Jesus always pursued the weak with open arms. When we are broken and fragile, He draws us closer to Him in ways we’ve never known. 
Let's not shame mental illness with the judgment of spiritual weakness...Faith should never undermine the necessity of doctors, of medications and therapy, because we must deploy every effort afforded to us when we tackle our brokenness.  

**If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I urge you to talk to someone!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7)
 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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