I really hadn’t planned to post this morning because I’ve been out of town for a week and need to focus on returning to the more rudimentary rhythms of life. In other words, I’m readying myself to return to work tomorrow after a week off! But when I saw a Facebook friend’s post about a black church leader Elder Mark Moore Jr.’s Facebook commentary regarding Bible study and therapy, I knew I needed to weigh in about this very timely topic. Below is what he said…
I understand what Elder Moore is trying to say I guess, but in my experience and from everything I’ve read, the Black Church, historically, has turned to Bible study and prayer OVER therapy during a mental health crisis to its detriment. Here a few excerpts of articles I’ve found to support that premise…
From my very own blog:
Excerpt: Do you feel like the church, specifically the Black Church, has appropriately addressed mental health and ministry? Please explain your answer.
No, I don’t think so. I think that historically, we have been taught just to “pray about it” – which, I agree wholeheartedly that we should pray about everything. However, it cannot stop there. If Sister Mary comes and says that she is suffering from depression and having suicidal thoughts, prayer along with ensuring that Sister Mary gets professional help is what is going to help to heal her. If someone says I have a tightness in my chest and my left arm is going numb, we are certainly going to pray, but someone is going to/should say “you need to go see a doctor.” The same advice given to someone with a physical ailment should be given when someone has a mental or emotional issue. That is not always the case in the Black Church.
Excerpt: How prevalent is mental illness in the black community, and what can the Black Church do to support mental health awareness and treatment?
Within the black community, the subject of mental illness is still very taboo, unfortunately. There are many people within the black community who have undiagnosed mental illness or have been diagnosed with a mental illness, but chose not to take medication or get therapy. These individuals, unfortunately, are suffering in silence. By failing to see a mental health professional, to follow up with treatment or refusing to take prescribed psychotropic medications, their mental illness not only affects them, but it affects their families, loved ones and the entire community.
As a Christian woman, I have a strong faith, and believe in God and the power of prayer. However, at times in the Black Church we fail to acknowledge and expound upon the importance of physical and mental health. Although prayer and motivation are important, and I personally know the benefits of each, it is also important for the Black Church to encourage and promote mental health awareness. We often seek the help and advice of medical physicians, but we fail to seek that same help and assistance from mental health professionals when our emotional and psychological well-being is in jeopardy. I feel it a responsibility of all of us to promote and encourage 360 degrees of wellness, and this includes our mental health.
From The Huffington Post:
Excerpt: Cobbs was diagnosed with depression after attending her first therapy consultation, where she discussed her various symptoms. Now, the singer says she still attends therapy sessions once every month to make sure she stays “connected” with her therapist.
“I think when you say ‘mental health,’ automatically people think ‘I’m not crazy,’ because we haven’t put a definition to exactly what we’re saying,” she said. “I believe when you say ‘it’s a mental health issue,’ it’s like having diabetes or something’s wrong with my toes or whatever the case is — it’s a medical condition and it can be dealt with. Just like you can manage a broken finger, you can manage mental health issues. I am a living witness that you can be freed and you can be cured and healed from it, but you have to first acknowledge that it exists.”
The suicides of Kate Spade earlier this month followed by Anthony Bourdain days later demonstrated in a dramatic way that no one, no matter the person’s social standing, celebrity status and wealth, is immune from mental health crises. I’m not discounting all of the people who don’t have a platform and suffer in the same way but because of the platforms of Spade and Bourdain, more people, I imagine, are paying attention to mental health issues.
As Elder Moore said, I do believe that Jesus still heals today but we cannot predict how He will heal and we have to use every resource available to facilitate that healing. I believe God has equipped some therapists and uses them to heal their patients. And some Christian therapists use Scripture in addressing mental health diagnoses. As my father was trained as a therapist and as a minister, I’ve never took part in the stigma about seeking counseling when needed. Bible study and prayer are indispensable tools that all should employ in health and wellness but they are not the only tools that God approves of and uses. I hope that more Black Church leaders come to this realization.
Alright, I think I’ve said all that I care to say except to point out I think that mental health issues are so hard for some people to grasp because the issues take place in the brain which none of us can physically see. But as Tasha Cobbs said, having a mental issue issue is just as debilitating as a physical issue. If someone has broken their leg in a car accident for example, you’re not going to advise that person to crack open a Bible and recite Scripture. I mean you can do it and it could be helpful, but you also need to get to a hospital. A mental health issue should be treated similarly. If someone you know is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, seek the help of a mental health professional and all the while you can be recalling Scripture and praying as you do it.
And below is a Scripture that applies to this post:
Do you feel that the Black Church elevates Bible study and prayer over therapy and medication when it comes to mental health crises?