I am Pagan. I left Christianity for a large variety of reasons (I’ve outlined them in extensive detail in another story, here on Medium). I also have some mental health things going on (attachment issues, adjustment disorder, and anxiety to give some examples). I’m currently seeking counseling through my school and taking medication to better control my panic symptoms.
I can not tell you how many times I’ve had friends and acquaintances be told “just trust in Jesus and they’ll heal you” (or something similar) when telling individuals about their mental illness (and/or symptoms). This is bullshit. Why? Often times, mental illness is severe enough that it NEEDS professional intervention. If a client feels like their illness is severe enough that requires medical attention, you often need a medical professional to help you deal with the symptoms (whether that’s through medication or otherwise).
You might be doing more harm than good when stating things like “trust Jesus”. One, you more than likely don’t know their theological beliefs (not everyone is Christian, believe it or not). It’s also possible that Christianity was used to justify some kind of abuse against them in the past (I have seen this be the case in more cases than I would like to see in a lifetime). Two, you are giving the impression that this kind of thing can just “be prayed away”, which again, is a bullshit argument.
Mental illness can not be prayed away.
Personally, it feels condescending when someone tells me to “pray my mental illness away”. If you want to be helpful to me, ask if there’s something you can do for me (or help me with). If you want to be helpful to me, be there for me when I attend a counseling session. If you want to be helpful to me, go with me when I go to pick up my medication. Show actively that you support me and want to help me. Other things that you can do that don’t directly involve me: donating with a reputable charity source for the mental illness I am going through, reading scholarly articles (Google Scholar and Researchgate are amazing resources for this) about my mental illness, and giving donations to researchers are also greatly helpful!
Brain scans show that people with mental illness have different developments in their brain than a “regular” person. It is currently estimated that at least 1-in-3 individuals will go through mental illness at some point in their life (estimated 1% of the population will experience schizophrenic type symptoms somewhere in their life as well). We need to remove the stigma, and encourage open conversations with everyone in everyday conversations. We can’t shy away from these conversations, just because it makes someone uncomfortable to discuss an invisible illness (aka someone who doesn’t have symptoms that are visible, like an open wound or bruise).