The Stigma of Mental Illness


Why is there often a stigma or shame attached to mental illness, whether caused by nature or lack of nurture? Even Christians sometimes add to a person’s pain, whether by silence and a lack of support or by critical remarks: “Where is your faith?” “Why don’t you just get over it and move on?” “Stop focusing on the bad stuff, and start counting your blessings.” Both silence and criticism can twist a knife in a hurting person’s heart.

Recently Rick and Kay Warren shared intimate details about their son on CNN in an interview with Piers Morgan. Their son, who struggled with personality disorder, committed suicide. They are now on a campaign against the stigma of mental illness.

In his first sermon after his son committed suicide Rick Warren said, “It’s amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there’s no shame and stigma to it,” Warren told the congregation. “But if your brain breaks down, you’re supposed to keep it a secret…. If your brain doesn’t work right, why should you be ashamed of that?”

Why the shame? Why can’t we talk more openly about it without fear of criticism or lack of support if we admit we have depression or some other mental heartache? Our mental faculties were wondrously created just as well as our other organs, and they are equally important to God. And if we as Christians follow Jesus’ example, we will never shrink from or shame an emotionally or mentally ill person. God calls us to love, not to judge.


9 Things Not to Say to Someone with Mental Illness

Time to Change: Let’s End Mental Health Discrimination – Tips for Talking

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Illness and the Church: New Research on Mental Health from Lifeway Research

Christians Can’t Ignore the Uncomfortable Reality of Mental Illness

Mental Illness Awareness Week: October 6-12, 2013

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