Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Don't call it Mental Illness

Peer Helpers in the former USSR. They help hundreds of hurting people annually! 

Dear Christianity Today Editors:

I am writing in response to a recent story in your magazine. It is about the need for churches to do something about the crisis of "Mental Illness" in the land. The tragedy of suicides, drugs, depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional problems impacts all of us and I want to see churches respond in healthy ways. 

I am a retired Clinical Therapist that founded a Christ centered Clinical Counseling program with an in-patient unit in 1989. The outpatient clinic is still at College Hill Presbyterian Church. We equipped some 4000 people at the church and community to care for themselves and each other. out of that larger population we recruited gifted and talented men and women and equipped them to be Peer Helpers. It has has been implemented in churches in many nations. 

After several years we had about 100 Lay Pastors and 65 Lay Counselors. We did NO Professional, Clinical Therapy. The Pastors did little counseling, home visitation, or hospital calls. The Lay Helpers did it all. 

I wince when I read about all the people with "mental Illness" in the church. Only about 10% of all the people in pain need professional therapy. But all need support from Christians and churches. By suggesting that person with an emotional/mental distress is "Mentally Ill" we imply that everyone needs Clinical Therapy. 

By labeling every person with emotional distress as "Mentally Ill" it puts that person into a box requiring professional, clinical, treatment with Medical implications. It immediately implies that the average Minister and Lay person has no business trying to help them. Most people in emotional and mental  distress will do fine with a Pastor or Lay Minister. They will get better. 

When a church equips its members to live more healthily and relate with the Fruit of the Spirit, it will give most people the support they need. 

When we teach our members how to renew their minds they will find relief from anxiety and depression.

When Christians learn how to pray for hurting hearts, fewer end up needing Clinical Therapy. 

Every Peer Helper can be trained to refer to a Professional when necessary. 

God's best this Christmas season,

Dr. Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems, INC

No comments: