Faith and Mental Health
By Dr. Brad Schwall
What does faith have to do with mental health? Our concerns, worries, dilemmas, and struggles bring up questions of meaning, purpose, and identity. Our lives are made up of our emotional, cognitive, relational, sexual, physical, vocational, and spiritual lives. At any given point, one of these aspects of our lives might be a greater focus or a source of stress or in a state of crisis. We all experience changes in life and challenges to the various parts of our lives.
Mental health involves the ability to problem-solve, manage stress, experience and enjoy intimacy, as we navigate through the ebbs ad flows of life. At times we enjoy a sense of stability and at times any one area of our life might be out of balance.
Mental illness involves the experience of symptoms of distress at intense levels over time. Many factors influence mental illness including genetics and bio-chemical processes in the brain. Any given year, 20% of Americans deal with mental illness. Three-fourths of Texans are impacted by mental illness, whether it be in their own lives or the lives of friends and family. People of faith are not immune from mental illness.
We must be aware that mental illness does not indicate a lack of faith or a deficit in self-control.
We can have hope that there are skills we can learn, insights we can gain, and support we can get to work through struggles. God wants us to live the good life, abundant life. The church has always had a focus on caring for the psychological and emotional aspects of our lives. Jesus gave attention to people dealing with loss, relationship struggles, isolation, and pretentiousness. So too, the church is called to meet the needs of the whole person.
When emotions or thoughts or behaviors impact our sense of well-being or even our daily functioning, attention to our mental health may be needed. It may be important and helpful to seek the help of someone trained in psychotherapy and psychology - trained to address depression, anxiety, trauma, or relationship struggles - a licensed therapist. The outcomes of counseling have spiritual implications. Insights gained and skills learned and the healing of hurts may help people love again and develop the imagination to see that there are new possibilities and that there is hope for contentment and peace - even in the midst of hurt or pain or fear.