By Nadia Johnson
This past Monday, I was in the park for a walk with my dog. I happened to see two Jehovah Witness that had their cart stack with pamphlets talking about mental health. I thought to myself, wow this is a really good step forward in helping people to handle mental health illness and the fact it was done in the month of May, which is mental health month was also a plus in my book. Finally, the church community is waking up to how the pandemic has affected our nation’s mental health and they finally decided to address.
However, as I started a conversion with the Jehovah Witness my hope and astonishment with them taking aim at talking about mental health quickly went away like a tide that comes in on a beach. It was through my conversation that I quickly realized that they were not address mental health illness or the mental health crisis of our country are where to get help. Instead they were discussing it in a negative light, which something that a lot of churches have been doing since the pandemic. They get people at their weakest point and promise them that God can heal them of all their mental health illness. If only they come to church and follow the program the church has for them because they are living in the last days and Satan is trying to take their minds. This infuriated to me because what it does is villainizes the mental healthcare industry as agents of Satan. It also makes people second guess their faith and mental health treatment that they are getting from professional therapist. In some cases, people has been so bullied by the church that they stop taking their meds and going to therapy. Which, leads to the person being worst off then what they would have been had they stuck to their professional mental health treatment plan. They church for the most part does not take responsibility for intimidation their fellow cogenerates into stopping their professional mental health treatment.
I myself can testify to this treatment because it happened to me. About five years ago I survived an apartment building fire, which was followed by a court case, which was followed by the pandemic. I can tell you that psychological therapy helped me way more than theological therapy. What the church misunderstands about psychological therapy is that the therapist will take you by the hand and walk you through your trauma. Another, fact about psychological therapy is that the therapist is a licensed person who knows how to deal with various mental health illness. They also come up with the patient’s indivisible treatment plans that will get them on track to becoming stable. As the patient keeps going to the therapist they will learn how to deal and live with their mental health illness and sometimes that means mental health medicines.
This in entire approach is what the church vilifies, because for them if you are a believer in God then all you have to do is put your trust in him and the healing will come. As a Christian myself, I tried this before I went to professional therapist. You see I was raised in the church and was told since I was a child that “Jesus can fix it, no matter the problem.” So I went to my church and luckily for me they already know about the apartment building fire that I survived. So they prayed for me and prayed for me, and I went to Bible study. Then I lost my job and it was at that point that I started to realized that things weren’t getting better but worst. So I made the brave decision to go to see a therapist, which diagnose with PTSD and some other mental health illness. I had to take some mental medicines and meet with her regularly. I was happy because it meant that I was on my way to recovery. I was so happy that I went back to church and told them what I done and I was meet with disgusts. This woman who I went to was a pastor in training who told me that I only had those problems because I did not turn it over to God and what I need to do was to stop taking my medicine and get back into church. While I stood my ground and said “no, I am going to continue with my non – Christian therapist and following her program until I am stabled”! Needless to say, as hard as it was I stop going to that church and started bouncing around various churches throughout the neighborhood to fine one that would support me.
What I had found to be true then I still find to be true know, which is that the church has no plan and very little resources to affectively dealt with mental health illness. They still want to believe that they are little “gods” that have the power in their hands to heal people, when all they have really is just mumbo jumbo. I am at a new church know and I told them my story. They have given me some financial help and offered to get me a Christian therapist. Since they gave me some financial help I felt that okay I am more stable know then I was two years ago when I start professional therapy. So I can deal with a Christian therapist. While that was a mistake. For one I found out that Christian therapy is not covered by any medical insurance and two they could not even find a Christian therapist in the neighborhood that was accessible to me.
So where did this leave me? It leaves me with the undeniable truth and that if I want to continue on the road to recovery I have to go continued to go to a professional therapist and finish my healing progress. When I finished telling my truth to the Jehovah Witness they looked at me, because I was not taking their mess laying down. I left them and threw away their pamphlets and went on about my day. For those of you who have a mental health illness and are experiencing push back from your church. Let me give you this advice get out of that church and seek a professional counselor or therapist that will help you, because at the end of the day it is your mental health that is at risk and not theirs and God will still love you no matter what they tell you.