In college, I had a friend named Jonathan. He wasn’t exactly the most popular guy on campus...in fact, he was your classic nerd. Poorly groomed, socially-inept, with a propensity for breaking into Monty Python quotes, whether the conversation called for it or not.
That alone would have given him enough trouble being friends. But unfortunately, he had bigger problems.
His episodes had no concern for crowds or social function. I remember one day in particular where he walked into the common room and saw A Beautiful Mind playing. It set him into fits. He became frantic, blathering to himself. Another friend and I tried desperately to calm him down and get him out of sight while a group of 19-year-old college students looked on in disgust.
In their defense, they didn’t know about his illness. They just knew he was acting weird.
In their offense, though, there’s really no excuse to treat anyone with that level of open disdain. Especially at a Christian college.
I wish I could say this was an abnormality. But as a society, we’ve been shamefully uncompassionate toward people struggling with mental illness. Especially within the Church.
We’ve believed and fed the stigmas regarding mental illness. Many people within the church have even suggested that taking antidepressants shows a lack of faith. After all, God is supposed to be our healer, right?
Amazingly, this distrust toward medication doesn’t extend to physical illnesses. I’ve never seen a member of my church chastised for going through chemotherapy.
But for mental illness, we’ve drawn a clear divide between the body and the mind. Mental illness is a spiritual issue, and it demands a spiritual solution. And we’ve done so at the expense of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.
Thankfully, the stigma is starting to fade. Many pastor friends of mine recommend counseling—and medication. Some of them even support the use of CBD oil for mental illness. One or two take it themselves.
This points to a more holistic—and more compassionate—treatment toward mental illness. And that’s exactly what we need.