The Mental Health Solution . com
"The entrance of thy words giveth light (Psalm 119:130)."

Mental Health: The Perfect Storm

In October of 1991, there was an incredible monster of a storm along the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard of the United States: "Labelled the 'perfect storm' by the National Weather Service, the storm sank the swordfishing boat Andrea Gail, whose story became the basis for the currently best-selling novel 'The Perfect Storm' by Sebastian Junger."1

In mental health, there is another 'perfect storm' and it happens every day—all over the world. People with anxiety, depression, "hallucinations" and other mental health symptoms are in desperate need of help, but little real help is available despite the billions of dollars being spent. Every way they turn, solutions are rare and hard to come by.

Let's start with pastors. Everyone assumes that pastors are biblical experts when it comes to mental health. And sometimes they are: When I worked at a continuation high school, one of my clients was a girl who was experiencing "hallucinations." I dutifully informed my clinical supervisor who told me to call her stepfather and tell him that she needed to be evaluated for psychotropic medication. I did what I was told, even though I knew better: Rather than endorse this course of action, I simply told the stepfather what my supervisor had said.

Fortunately, the stepfather was a Christian and knew better than to send the girl to a psychiatrist. He instead had the girl talk to the church pastor and the problem was quickly resolved. Many Christians are not so lucky.

The reality of the situation is than many pastors have little expertise when it comes to mental health. This is true for two reasons: 1) To really understand issues like anxiety and depression you really need to have substantial personal experience. Most pastors do not; that is why they were able to become successful as pastors. The church I attend is an exception; both pastors have had experience with depression and one is a former alcoholic. 2) Most lay people do not realize that mental health issues are not really covered that much in the seminaries where pastors are trained. I graduated from a seminary with a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. Even though not required by the State of California for my degree, the seminary required that I also take 18 units of Bible classes; I studied in the same classes with aspiring pastors. Mental health issues were barely mentioned!

Pastors, with limited time and expertise, often refer to mental health professionals.

Next, let's talk about those mental health professionals. Mental health professionals are trained to view their profession as a "soft science." There are popular competing and conflicting theories as to why mental health problems exist and how they should be addressed. None of these theories have been authored by Christians. Since these theories are usually inadequate to resolve mental health problems, psychotropic medication is advocated as an adjunct to the therapy.

Some of the perspectives given by secular therapists are really bizarre: When I was working at that high school, my regular clinical supervisor went on vacation and I was supervised by another licensed clinician who was also a clinic supervisor. I brought him the issue of a student who was having conflicts with a teacher. He stated that I should tell the student to go up to the teacher, at the beginning of the class, and have the student tell the teacher that he knew that the teacher would say something negative about him so he would just like to get it over with!

In fairness to mental health professionals, most are caring and good listeners. And these qualities are helpful for people in emotional pain.

That brings us to doctors. Doctors are taught to view mental illness via the same lense as they view physical illness: The medical model. Since there is no such thing as demons or spiritual footholds, and secular therapy is unable to resolve the issues presented, medication is appropriate and necessary. In my article on psychotropic medication, I tell the story of a relative whose life has been ruined by psych meds. He is not alone, as anyone who works with the mental health population knows all too well.

In my experience in the mental health field, many of my clients have been on psych meds. It is rare for me to have a client where these medications really may be appropriate.

Psychotropic medications make it impossible to learn how to rely on Scripture and become proficient in spiritual warfare.

So there you have it. People in emotional pain often find no real solutions to their problems—whether they turn to their pastors, their therapists or their doctors. Another 'perfect storm.'

1 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/satellite/satelliteseye/cyclones/pfctstorm91/pfctstorm.html

 

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