Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mental Ilness and its Stigma, Part 2

Do Nerves Break Down?

Another reason why stigma persists in the churches and in society as well, is the continuing use of the term nervous breakdown to describe mental illness. This term began to be used at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States. It conjures up the images of women, lacking in energy, eating chocolates, popping downers to calm their frazzled nerves.

The term nervous breakdown is a misnomer arising out of Freudian and neo-Freudian psychology(see our book, Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like Losing It Bloem Steve&Robyn(2005) Kregel Publications,pp 32,33).

I still remember being so depressed that I could not candidate at church in Florida. I had gotten better and tried to reapply. The head deacon said to me, in a smooth southern drawl, Steve, do you have a case of the nerves? They did not want me back.
Certainly, mental illness has to do with the central nervous system. But the term nervous breakdown represents a pejorative perspective on mental illness. Mental illness is biological in its origin. Christians cannot claim to have immunity from it.

Let’s Pray For Our Poor, Mentally Ill Member

Evidences of the stigma of mental illness in churches persist. For instance, when is the last time in a church prayer meeting that you heard a prayer request for someone who is in a psychiatric hospital? If people in your church or your town would really be honest, they would be amazed how many people are being treated biologically for a mental illness.

However, most church goers will not mention mental illness, their silence for themselves or their loved ones in the church speaks loudly to us. Instead, there are whispers in the foyer about someone not being able to handle stress, having a case of the nerves or some other inane comment.

Heaven Knows No Stigma

Thankfully, there is no stigma in Heaven about our subject. Millions of perfected saints in glory are praising God that the Lord Jesus Christ through His shed blood and resurrection has delivered them from the horrible pain of mental illness, which to many was feared more than death itself. Matt. 5:3 tells us, Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see the kingdom of God.

A pastor friend of mine contacted me about a godly man in his congregation who had severe mental illness. The tried Christian died suddenly, in the middle of reading his Bible one morning and went to be with the Lord.

My friend, the pastor said, “Now his torment is over forever.”
Let us be brave and face the horrible suffering of mental illness head on.
By doing this we will bring glory and honor to God. Romans 12:16, Be of the same mind toward one another ; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation

Bloem, Steve and Robyn, CAMI Leader Guide,(2007) available only from the authors. Study Guides are also available. Please follow the link to read reviews of Broken Minds.

Thanks, Steve and Robyn Bloem
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