Good for them.
And good for us.
Mental illness continues to carry a stigma. A broken bone is proof of injury, but with mental illness, an x-ray proves nothing. Diabetes is a blood disorder, but with a mental disorder, bloodwork proves nothing.
There’s also the stigma that those who suffer from mental illness are irrational, crazy, and dangerous. We’ve seen this escalate with President Donald Trump. Regardless of President Trump’s mental health, it’s the association with his bizarre and sometimes brutal behavior and language that labels those with mental illness as “dangerous.”
No one nailed this better than Piper Gourley, in her piece “Why Calling Donald Trump ‘Mentally Ill’ is dangerous.” She writes:
Those of you calling Trump the same stigmatizing phrases over and over again are not only wrong but hurtful. You are hurting those of us who spend each day hiding our damage with the fear we will be seen as dangerous as the most prominent point of misguided, stigmatized focus if we come forward. Mental health awareness is not a topic that deserves to be dedicated to Trump, claiming his “danger” as a president. Mental health must be assigned to the whole of our humanity — advocacy for those who have overcome, those who struggle with their mental health every day, and those who are fighting for recovery.
Discussion about mental health needs to not be about increasing separation, but breaking stigma; not about potential “danger,” but about the effects of support, therapy and proper treatment. Mental health awareness does not and should not belong to Trump. This awareness, and reframing it in a more positive light, must belong to the millions of us who struggle in silence: a silence that must now be broken to survive.
I’m a dad of four and a pastor. I’ve been open about my mental illness since 2016. My kids are at the age now they understand mental illness.
I have fears about the stigmatic messages they might receive from various outlets about people with mental illness. Then as a result, what they’ll think of me.
In addition, I’m concerned about how parents of their friends in our community might perceive me. When I go to my kids’ ballgames, I wonder if parents are aware of my condition since I’ve have written and interviewed about my battle.
Frankly, I hope they’ve not seen or heard my story. My concern isn’t for me, but for my kids and how they’ll be perceived.
On another note, the Christian community is waking up, thank God. But the stigma remains.
Sadly, some Christian leaders went public implying that devotion to God should overcome depression. A recent tweet from one of my favorite ministries stated:
“We will find mental health when we stop staring in the mirror and fix our eyes on the strength and beauty of God.”
“Depression is a result of spiritual starvation. Overcome depression and emotional hardships by immersing yourself in God’s Word.”
Those comments are like saying, “Overcome your broken bones and diabetes by faith and devotion to God.”
If it only was that easy. I would give anything if God zapped away my mental illness with meditation, prayer, and Scripture.
But it’s more complex than that.
Recently, I shared with a depressed Christian young man, “This is our deal—mental illness. We can’t enjoy life and certain pleasures like most can. We have to be disciplined and resolute. We have to see a psychiatrist. We have to take medication. We have to go to therapy. We have to get a lot of sleep. We have to watch our diet. We have to exercise. We have to commit to a supportive community. And yes, we must cling to God by faith through prayer and His Word.”
If you struggle with mental illness, I encourage you to do the same.
If you have a loved one who struggles with mental illness, I have much to say on that too. I wrote an eBook about it: 10 Ways to Support a Loved One with Mental Illness. It’s free to you by subscribing to my blog.
As someone who has loved basketball his entire life, and because my kids love basketball and carry my DNA, I’m beyond grateful for DeRozan, Love, and Oubre Jr. sharing their struggles. They’ve reminded us there’s much more to life than basketball superstardom. And that wealth, fame, and sports acclaim are no match for mental illness.
To my brothers and sisters who struggle with mental illness, you are not alone. Get help. Work on your overall health. Yes indeed, pray, read God’s Word, and connect with a community of friends for support. Seek the help of the Holy Spirit. Press on. Brighter days are ahead. I promise.
For the rest, welcome those in the mental war to break their silence. Show them by your love, support, words, and behavior that they are not crazy or dangerous.
We are all in this thing together.
* This post has been updated since it’s orginal posting.