Three Myths Some Religious People Believe about Depression
There are three myths some religious people believe about depression. Recently, I was on a panel discussing mental illness at a church. One individual said that we could get over depression because, "some people make their own depression" and, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It brought back several memories of how this kind of thinking nearly destroyed my life. The best way to fight these depression and mental health myths is through education, so here are three myths some religious people believe about depression.
Religious Depression Myths That Deny Reality
If You Have Enough Faith, You Won't Be Depressed
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I could backpack through Europe in style. Some religious people believe that if you just had enough faith, you wouldn't be depressed. This not only ignores the fact that both Moses and Elijah prayed to die, but it perpetuates the belief that physical health is different than mental health.
Faith does not prevent broken legs, why would it prevent broken minds? If we have a broken leg, most of us don't rely on prayer to fix it. Most of us go to the hospital for treatment, get a cast, follow doctor's orders, and let it heal. The same should be true for psychiatric problems, which are caused by a very real chemical imbalance in the brain.
There's nothing to be ashamed of if you have a mental illness. It's nobody's fault, and treatment is available. Recovery is real, just as recovering from a broken leg is real. Faith has nothing to do with depression. It's time to stop acting like depression is a lack of faith.
You Can Pray Away the Depression
This is popular in Pentecostal circles, where even physical ailments are treated by laying on of hands and praying in tongues. While there are cases of spontaneous remission of symptoms--I've seen them--they are the exception and not the norm. This is especially true with mental illness. You can no more pray away depression than you can "pray away the gay" (Should Conversion Therapy Be Banned?).
I once saw a meme about polio and treatment/prevention by prayer and by science. The people that relied on prayer still got polio and were left disabled. The people that used science to get the preventative vaccine or to treat the polio if they got it, didn't get polio and could walk, run, and play. The same is true with depression. If you rely only on prayer, you're not going to get better. You will be left with the marks of the disease. If you open your mind and let science help, you can live a somewhat normal life.
As I like to say, God gave the scientists wisdom to discover these medications, and gave us a brain to choose to use them. Don't believe this myth that some religious people believe about depression.
Depression Is Something to Be Ashamed Of
This myth perpetuates the stigma of mental illness by preventing open and honest discussion of mental illness. By teaching that depression is something to be ashamed of, we prevent people from seeking help. By preventing people from seeking help, we perpetuate the myth that people never recover, and by teaching that people never recover, we deny people the hope of learning how to live in recovery.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. You have the right to reach out for help. You have the right to cry, the right to feel bad, and the right to treatment to help you feel better. You don't have to live in the shadows. You have the right to recover.
So that's three myths some religious people believe about depression. What are some myths you've heard from religious people?
Oberg, B. (2016, June 20). Three Myths Some Religious People Believe about Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2016/06/three-myths-some-religious-people-believe-about-depression
Author: Becky Oberg
I am not Christian myself but a pagan suffering from depression and mental health issues. I belive in myself that having faith can help with depression. This is coming from someone that has little faith in anything and I see with my mind that the people that do have faith can deal with depression easier. The problem with people that do suffer bad with mental illness and depression (including myself) is we are unable to have the faith that these other people have what ever god or goddess you follow. Depression can close you to so much in life and if we could get to a place of faith it would be a very healing tool but sometimes some of us haven't learned how to have faith in our selves. I am one of those and am on a journey of healing and growing. And it does help when we really support each other as human beings
Some comments I received at church during a recent bout of depression:
Stop being selfish. Take your mind off yourself and help others. Cast out demons of depression. Pray harder, pray more, pray with real faith. Don't resort to medication. Try therapy with essential oils. Turn off the tv, news, Internet. Search the Scriptures. Only believe! Fortunately, these types of comments come from a small minority within the congregation. My pastor is very supportive and accepting of hurting people, even folks with mental health struggles. I feel safe and lived in my church family, even if a few people don't understand yet.
Its always been a war between science and church. recently in my country church leaders blocked polio jabs from being administered to believers. more people should read this article.
I agree with you on this. Prayer doesn't sort depression, rather, I believe people with different temperaments deal with depression differently.