Significant numbers of people will struggle with mental health problems in their lifetime. Mental Health America estimates that “46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life” and this includes both Christians or non-Christians.
These matters about mental health and the Bible can quickly get very complicated, and it’s beyond the scope of this article to untangle all of that. One belief that is particularly unhelpful, as people who struggle with mental illness, and those who know them, would recognize: about half of evangelical Christians believe that prayer and Bible study alone can heal mental illness, according to a Lifeway Research study.
Dr. Ed Stetzer (Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and Pastor) noted in his Christianity Today article, “The Christian Struggle with Mental Illness“—
This deep-seated belief that somehow seeking help for a mental illness can not only pit scripture and medicine as enemies, but also ostracize and dishearten the countless Christians who, along with their friends and families, struggle with these issues.
Professionals and experts among Christian counselors, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, pastors, theologians, and others have formed different organizations based on their faith convictions and perspectives about mental health:
- American Association of Christian Counselors
- Biblical Counseling Coalition
- Christian Association for Psychological Studies
Association of Certified Biblical Counselors explains how biblical counseling differs from Christian counseling, taking a more discerning posture regarding secular psychology—
In general, what is usually called “Christian counseling” is different from “biblical counseling” in that Christian counseling often uses secular psychology while viewing the client and their situation from a Christian worldview. Depending on the counselor, they may or may not use the Bible or even pray in the sessions. This is not to say that a Christian counselor is not also a biblical counselor, but often, Christian counselors are Christians who integrate secular psychology into their counseling. Biblical counselors counsel from Biblical theories and principles.
In this article’s conclusion, The Case for Faith: Celebrating Hope in Mental Health Care, by Eric Scalise, Ph.D. & Tim Clinton, Ed.D.—
Yes spirituality is mysterious and yes, it is real. Faith and faith-based treatment models continue to show promise in the literature and researchers should be encouraged to pursue the ongoing exploration of this dynamic construct. Spirituality, while intensely personal, offers the “believer” an anchor for the soul. It has a hopeful contagion effect that can motivate a client and enhance the change process in ways that are transformational because it incorporates the whole person. Does faith make a difference? It can.
The author at GotQuestions.org cautions about the relying on medication versus relying on God by faith, in responding to the question: “Should a Christian take anti-depressants or other mental health medicines?“—
However, there is a fine line between using medicine for healing purposes and continual reliance upon medicine for daily living. We need to recognize God as the Great Physician, and know that He alone holds the power to truly heal (John 4:14). … By taking medicine on a limited basis in order to treat the symptoms, then relying upon the Word of God and wise counsel to enact transformation in one’s heart and mind, usually the need for the medicine will diminish.
What about Demon Possession and Mental Illness?
Does demon possession exist today? If so, should it be considered in the differential diagnosis of mental illness? Chris Cook (Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Department of Theology & Religion, Durham University.) offers some insights from a Christian perspective—
Demon possession and mental illness, then, are not simply alternative diagnoses to be offered when a person presents with deliberate self harm or violent behaviour, although they may need to be distinguished in such circumstances, whether by spiritual discernment or the application of basic psychiatric knowledge. It would seem reasonable to argue that demon possession may be an aetiological factor in some cases of mental illness, but it may also be an aetiological factor in some non-psychiatric conditions, and in other cases it may be encountered in the absence of psychiatric or medical disorder. Furthermore, demon possession is essentially a spiritual problem, but mental illness is a multifactorial affair, in which spiritual, social, psychological and physical factors may all play an aetioIogical role. The relationship between these concepts is therefore complex.
Learn More about Christians and Mental Illness
What Christians Agree On about Mental Health and the Bible
From this quick survey of views and perspectives, Christians do agree on these beliefs:
- God is the ultimate Healer
- God can use medication as a means of healing
- the Bible is the Word of God
- the Bible has insights into the human condition
- the Bible provides strength and comfort for those who struggle with mental health problems