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Corzine-McCloskey: Dear church, please quit stigmatizing mental illness

By Cris Corzine-McCloskey
Contributing writer
Posted on 4/6/2018, 1:00 AM

I am on a mission to talk about things the Church considers taboo. Today's topic is mental illness. The term conjures up visions of straight jackets and asylums. Many Christians think it's caused by anything from a lack of faith or hidden sin to demonic possession.

These beliefs are killing people because where there is a stigma, there is a reluctance to get help.

First, I want to demystify the term "mental illness." The brain is an organ. Like other organs, it needs optimum conditions to thrive. Just as too much sugar can lead to diabetes, too much stress and other adverse conditions can cause the brain to suffer. While psychotic disorders get the press, they are the rarity. The most frequent forms of mental illness are depression and anxiety.

Let's take your average believer, Joe Smith, and expose Joe to prolonged, extreme stress. If Joe's blood pressure went up his church family would insist he see a doctor. If medication were needed, there would be relief that his condition was under control. No one would tell Joe he has a problem with his faith, question hidden sin, or suggest deliverance prayer. If Joe had a stroke, he would have the full support of his church body. His family would have casseroles brought by and prayer support.

Let's take the same scenario; only instead of it affecting Joe's blood pressure, it triggered a major depression. Initially, he would get support and scriptures to stand on. "The joy of the Lord is my strength." But depression causes problems with concentration and motivation, so his usual faith go to's don't work. Joe feels condemned by that and begins to question his faith.

As his condition continues, the questions start. "Joe, is there anything you need to confess?" That results in more shame. If Joe goes to the doctor and gets medication for his depression, it is perceived as a crutch.

Now Joe's depressed, ashamed, and without understanding support. His view of life has changed, because he now has depression goggles on, which causes hopelessness and an inability to see a better future. His family is frustrated with him, and don't understand why he can't just 'snap out of it,'

which furthers his desperation. Under these conditions, suicide starts feeling like an option. There aren't many casseroles and prayers coming to Depression Joe. Now, make Joe a church leader.

That makes the problem exponentially worse because he's supposed to have the answers. He can't let people know he's suffering. He begins to wear a perma-smile, while inside he feels like dying. How long do you think you would be able to hold up if you were Joe?

We will continue talking about Joe next week. Until then, if you or someone you love suffers from mental illness, it's time to get help. Call a qualified mental health professional, call your doctor, call someone. No more suffering in silence. If you are feeling suicidal, the people at the Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255, are always there to listen. Hang on Joe, help is on the way!

Caring Counseling Ministries is located at 11264 Route 37, Marion and is a not-for-profit corporation for the purpose of providing counseling from a Biblical perspective at an affordable cost to persons living in Southern Illinois. Cris Corzine-McCloskey is the director and she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. To make an appointment, please call 997-2129.