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One of the most dangerous beliefs a person can have is that you can pray away mental illness. Religion, just like any other type of relationship, can be either healthy or toxic.
Even though faith may have its place in the world. That place shouldn’t be used as a replacement for actual medical interventions.
I have no issue with religion itself. The trouble stems from when an individual uses religion as a means of not taking ownership of their actions, or an excuse for their own inactions, when it comes to their treatment and their well being and other aspects of their life.
Let’s look at a few of the unhealthiest beliefs that can be found in many religions. Then look at what the church can actually do to make a real difference in people’s lives.
Myth # 1 Mental illness is a flaw or punishment.
When a person is diagnosed with a medical condition, whether it's a physical or psychological illness, it has absolutely nothing to do with what type of person they are. It’s due to the fact that they are diagnosed with a valid medical condition, plain and simple.
Making someone feel as if they are at fault for having a condition that they are powerless over having is cruel. It also makes that person feel as if their condition is their fault and they are less of a person for having it. When in actuality, it's the individual who refuses to see mental health issues for what they are that has the issues.
Myth # 2 Prayer is better than therapy.
There have been plenty of studies showing prayer can be good. The thing is that you can't pray away a broken limb or any other medical conditions just like you can't pray away a mental health issue. You need to find the proper help from the proper people, in order to get the proper tools so that you effectively deal with your medical condition and the various complexities of it.
Praying just gives you a false sense of security. You're placing the responsibility on a higher power, instead of taking ownership of the things that are within your power to change.
I’m not saying prayer is bad but it is in no way, shape, or form as effective as listening to a qualified medical professional. Also priests or any other religious head do not have the education and qualifications that it takes to understand the complexities of mental health issues and medical issues.
Myth # 3 If you have faith you will be cured.
First of all there is no cure for mental health issues; it's about using effective treatment strategies to help you, that you have to do for your entire lifespan.
Even if God does exist, which I hope he or she does, that should not be a reason for not listening to the proper medical or psychological advice. What will make you feel better and have a positive impact on your life is doing what is medically necessary.
Now let's take a look at what religion can do so that people with mental health issues get the aid that they need.
- Leave the therapy for actual therapists
- Instead of condemning people who take medication, support them by teaching the importance of listening to their doctor.
- Seeing mental health issues and any medical issues as a medical condition, not a spiritual problem.
- Being more open-minded, especially when it comes to seeing things outside of their own beliefs.
- Teaching balance and why it’s important to get the proper help for the medical conditions.
- Not using the Church to hide behind their negative behaviour and beliefs.
- Promote mental health awareness and have a zero tolerance for stigma.
Practicing these simple things can honestly make a big difference in people's lives, especially people who struggle every day with mental health issues.
Instead of making them feel as if they are the ones to blame for being diagnosed with something that they are in no control over having, plus having the humility to actually say I don’t know, point the person in the direction that they need to people who are qualified for treating mental illness.