By Jonathan Ho
The first time I encountered a psychiatric diagnosis was when a family friend’s daughter was hospitalized. I remember visiting the psych ward, not really knowing what happened, hearing about how she now had to share a room with another girl who kept telling her odd and creepy phrases during the night. In the ensuing years, her parents tried their best to help her, helping her get attention from doctors, receive medication, and bringing her to healing services. At one prayer session she was told to stop taking her medications. She stopped and got better… for a few days, but then she got a lot worse.
Some people think mental illness is just imagined, that you’re weak if you allow your thoughts and emotions to overwhelm your life. Some people believe medications are important, while others refuse to use medications.
It seems the only consistent message within the body of Christ is that we are confused. We don’t seem to know if it’s the person’s fault, their parents’ fault, something wrong with the body/mind, or a combination of other factors.
The word “confusion” comes from Latin, coming from words meaning “to mingle together”. We have many ideas but no clarity on what to do.
Unfortunately, we are often happy to stay in this confused area, thinking, if I don’t know what to do and don’t do anything then I won’t be responsible for what happens.
We can’t get past five chapters of Scripture before we read one of the first human born children ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) and we can’t get past three years of Jesus’s ministry before we read of someone asking him, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). We seem to want to be excused, but if you truly claim to follow Jesus, then you will find little tolerance for excuses. Is ignorance an excuse for inaction? If you know your brother or sister is suffering and do nothing, can you truly say you love God?
In 1974, Emily Perl Kingsley, a Sesame Street writer, found out her son had Down Syndrome. She was told she should abandon her son, that he would not be able to do much of anything. No one knew much about Down Syndrome, and the internet wasn’t an option at that time. She didn’t know anything about developmental disabilities, but she worked hard. She pushed for children with disabilities to be shown on Sesame Street, and her son went on to write a book and inspire others. Why did she push so hard? Because she loved her son. She did not stop because she didn’t know what to do, but she used the gifts she had on hand to create a new possibility.
As children of God, do we not have the same responsibility to pursue those who need help? Jesus showed us that we ALL need help. May we not give in to our desire to avoid responsibility, but realize we have been called to love. My hope is that these articles would inspire you to take action, even if it’s a small step, and that you would open doors for others to help you.
The following articles include the experience of wrestling with depression (through both article and poetry), perspectives on when you encounter psychiatric diagnoses, and a call to action in our Christian circles.
Dr. Edward Welch once said that we know those who have psychiatric diagnoses are suffering. They are hurting. As such, we should move towards them, humbly and lovingly (patiently, reasonably, consistently) just as Jesus came among us. Paul wrote that if one part of the body of Christ suffers, then the other parts should suffer with it (see 1 Corinthians 12:26). My prayer and hope is that each of us would learn to step into the world of others, that we would learn to suffer with those suffering, and as we cling together to Christ, that we would soon rejoice together in Christ Jesus.
P.S. As always, we’d love to hear from you. Have a thought or response to one of the articles? Have you wrestled with a psychiatric diagnosis or have a loved one who does? We’d love to hear your story. Email email@example.com with any stories, feedback, thoughts, and questions you might have.