Faith and Mental Health–Sisters, Not Twins
In beauty guru circles, there is a saying about eyebrows: they’re sisters, not twins. Meaning, that your eyebrows are not going to look exactly alike and to try to make them so is futile.
Perhaps we should start using that analogy when talking about faith and mental health. Sure, they are related in that one can positively (or negatively) affect the other, but they are not the same thing. Mental health issues are not “fixed by faith,” nor are they a sign that your faith is lacking in fervor.
Too many of our kindred in Christ still believe that faith and mental health are inextricably intertwined. That poor mental health equals poor faith. This article in Relevant Magazine debunks that notion and even flips it on its head, saying that dealing with your mental health issues is actually a sign of a mature faith.
My own denomination (Presbyterian Church USA) has launched a new initiative to help congregations better minister to people in their churches and their communities who are dealing with mental illness.
The power of faith and the connection to a faith community can be immensely helpful and healing to someone battling mental illness, but it can’t replace treatment provided by professionals and (often) medication. Churches are (slowly, but surely) making the shift from shaming people about seeking help to encouraging them to do so.
We can be a part of that, as continuing advocates for mental health care. To normalize mental illness by talking, praying and educating people about it. Faith and mental health are not the same thing, but they can be excellent partners.
So the eyebrow analogy is not perfectly transferable to mental health and faith, but perhaps we can find something that is. Hand holders, not smothering huggers? Friends, not lovers? Salad, not soup? I’m open to suggestions.