Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” – 1 Kings 19:4 NLT
Is mental illness real? To understand the issue fully, it is essential to consider how mental disorders are diagnosed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), is also known as the “bible of mental illnesses”. To qualify for a diagnosis from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, you must have at least five of the nine possible symptoms listed in the DSM. These symptoms, not your feelings, which impair your proper mental function and capacity, will determine your diagnosis, and then a professional can facilitate evidence-based treatment on your behalf. Therefore, a diagnosis by a doctor or therapist can help you gain access to the specific level of care that is necessary for you.
So, let’s state the facts. Mental health diseases are real. Mental illnesses have been identified as far back as 400 B.C. when greek physician Hippocrates first started treating mental illness as a physical disease. Today modern medicine now clearly defines mental disorders as diseases and biological in origin. So, mental diseases aren’t just real because doctors can diagnose them and patients can feel them, but it is also clear that mental diseases are real because we can see changes in the brain.
The good news about the reality of finding biological proof for mental diseases is that we now know that treatment reverses many physical symptoms related directly to mental illness. Now, as we dive into the topic of mental illness, let us explore the spiritual and practical truths offered in the Bible to provide guidance and support in navigating your diagnosis.
1. Realize that mental illness is described in the Bible. In our opening verse, Elijah battled with fear and then with depression as he fled Queen Jezebel in Israel. His depression was at such levels that he wished he could die. God did not take Elijah’s life, but instead gave him the strength to keep going. God helped Elijah by providing him with healthy support to recover his health.
2. Remember that you are not alone on this journey. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT). Jesus overcame the sinfulness of this world by living a perfect life and sacrificing His life on the cross. We always have forgiveness through His grace and the promise of His abiding presence with us always. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT)
3. Seek help without hesitation. Reach out to doctors, pastors, and counselors who can walk alongside you in your healing journey. Let go of the stigmas that surround mental illness and remember that seeking support is a courageous step. Understand that while friends are important, they may not be trained counselors. Acknowledge that just as Moses received assistance from Aaron, there are times when we need direct support from others to navigate our mental and physical weaknesses.
4. Meditate on the Psalms daily for encouragement. You can come to God in prayer, study His Word, or spend time in His presence singing and meditating on the Psalms of King David. He was a man after God’s own heart, but he also struggled with grief, pain, and depression throughout his life. Many of the Psalms were written from the perspective of David’s many sufferings. He said, “I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. 7 My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.” (Psalms 6:6-7 NLT)
1. Find your support people this week and determine to build a support team for your health and care. Start by making an appointment with your doctor to get a mental health evaluation and start building your support team for treatment and eventual wellness.
2. One of the most important things you can do to strengthen yourself is to lean on God’s grace for help and sufficiency. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9 and try to memorize it this week.