There are currently two groups that are both unlearned and resistant to the topic of mental health treatment and those communities are the church and the African American community. So there should be no surprise that this an area of great concern in the predominately African American church. Mental Health related issues is becoming a hot topic in the church. The stigma is breaking and many people are no longer suffering with mental illness in silence. Instead these individuals are seeking professional help outside of the church and sharing their experiences with other believers.
Many believers have discovered that praise breaks and prayers calls was not giving them the freedom they are looking for. This is why it is time for the church to become educated and have an understanding as it relates to mental health disorders. Mental health disorders affect mood, thoughts and behavior over a period of time. Mental health disorders can be intrusive and debilitating to the individuals that are suffering. Serious mental health disorders especially those that include symptoms of psychosis will typically require medication to be taken.
One of the biggest mistakes I continue to see in the black church is pastors telling members of the church to discontinue taking their medication that is being used to treat a mental illness. This can be very dangerous as some individuals become dangerously unstable and could even be a danger to themselves or others. I have warned and will continue to warn pastors that they can and will be found liable and even sued if their poor advice ends in tragedy. It is important for people to understand a pastor is not a medical doctor and should not have to attempt be one. All healings that warrant the discontinuation of medication should be verified by a medical doctor. If we wouldn’t tell a diabetic to stop taking insulin we also shouldn’t tell someone diagnosed with a mental health disorder to stop taking their medicine.
I want the church to understand that mental illness is ILLNESS and that there is no shame in getting help and admitting you are not okay. Many people are looking for help beyond the altar and that is where counseling from a Spirit-filled mental health professional can have life changing results that allows a person to be healed from the inside out. Sadly when counseling is mentioned many will say “I don’t counsel demons” my calm response is neither do I because I cast them out. But after all that is said and done I do believe in counseling PEOPLE that have been harassed, vexed, tormented, and bound by demons. People have been traumatized from their childhood and they are carrying around rape, incest, molestation, parental abandonment, abortion, rejection, abuse and many other traumatic scenarios. I can't tell you how many people have reached out to me over the past 6 months asking for help because the church is struggling to understand how to help, reach, and love those suffering with mental illness. It's time we gain understanding to be able to recognize and discern mental health issues and when we recognize these situations we need to understand what to do.
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