There’s been a lot of talk about mental health in recent years, usually in reference to those dang millenniums and their diddly darn safe spaces.
To people who don’t understand, it seems like people with mental illnesses are just coming out of the woodwork. Suddenly, there are all these people with self-proclaimed PTSD and anxiety and depression. It doesn’t make sense to them. It’s almost – almost – as if people are figuring out what’s wrong with them so that they can help.
And then people who don’t understand get all offended for some reason, as if that’s a bad thing.
Listen, I get both sides of the argument. Completely. But lately, I’ve been siding more with the people who are finally finding labels for the unknown monster that’s been plaguing them. Because wouldn’t taking tests to find out if you have cancer be better than shoving down the symptoms and pretending like it isn’t there?
And yet people still keep denying it. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You don’t really have cancer. You’re just overthinking things. You need to be more chill.”
Now, I know that cancer is on a completely different plane than a mental illness. But I think the reasons why the two should be treated differently are rapidly deteriorating.
A lot of Christians like to wave off the issue of mental illness with an admittedly well-intentioned “If you’re really suffering from (anxiety, depression, insomnia – you fill in the blank), pray and God will make it all better.”
There are two things wrong with this – first, that they’re ignoring a problem, and second, that they’re assuming that, if it’s a real problem, that God can just take it away.
Sure, God can take it away, but sometimes what even Christians forget is that God is not a vending machine, nor is He a wish-granting factory. We don’t understand why He allows us to go through trials that He has the power to take away. Sometimes it’s to better us, sometimes it’s simply to teach us how to rely on Him for strength.
And to assume that mental illness is something that God can and will just take away with a simple prayer is blatantly and horrifically wrong.
I can go into all the reasons why mental illnesses shouldn’t be ignored – from chemical imbalance to issues resulting from childhood trauma – but I’m sure you have people in your life who you can talk to, because the fact remains that one in five adults in the US suffer from a mental illness. The statistic is the same for children, and for teenagers aged 13-18, the statistic is almost one in four. (See NAMI’s statistics.)
Even if these statistics weren’t true, your response to your friends dictates how you actually feel about mental illness. It’s one thing to lovingly care for your friends and ask what you can do to help – it’s a completely different thing to essentially tell them that they’re lying (excuse you?), that it’s “not that big of a deal” (just because it’s not a big deal to you doesn’t mean that it’s something they’re daily affected by), or that it’s “just in their head.” (“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with people trying to find out what’s going on inside their heads. How else would they figure out how to deal with it?
Instead of arguing with their findings, I’d challenge you to be a good friend and help them with whatever they’re going through. After all, God loves us all equally despite all of the reasons we think He shouldn’t, so, since we’re called to be like Him, why should we act any differently?