In the media and in personal circles I hear of medical practitioners, educators and community members who dismiss or deny the existence of mental illness, but a recent Baylor University study determined that one of the most dismissive of all professions is…
…are you ready for this?
…clergy …pastors …spiritual leaders …men and women of God!
Researchers at Baylor surveyed 293 parishioners who approached church leaders for guidance in response to previously diagnosed serious disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
In one-third of those situations, religious leaders toldfamily members and significant others that their loved onesdid not really have a mental illness — even when they had been properly diagnosed by licensed mental-health care providers.
Church members were told that symptoms and behaviors resulted from one or more of the following causes:
1.- The commitment of sin
2. - A lack of faith
3. - A satanic or demonic influence
Lead researcher, Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University said during an interview, “The results are troubling because it suggests individuals in the local church are either denying or dismissing a somewhat high percentage of mental health diagnoses. Those whose mental illness is dismissed by clergy are not only being told they don’t have a mental illness, they are also being told they need to stop taking their medication. That can be a very dangerous thing.”
Very dangerous indeed.
Can you imagine caring for a medically non-compliant loved one whose clergyman encourages him to stop or resist taking medication? This is sheer ignorance at work. And I thought the dark ages had passed!
Equally disturbing was the additional finding that women were far more likely than men to have their legitimate mental health concerns denied or disregarded by their religious leaders.
I’m stunned by the degree to which patriarchy thrives. How do we educate these good ole boys?
How do we guide institutions that cling to darkness, resist enlightenment, and fail at understanding?
Are finger-pointing and blame-laying so much more expedient than seeking the truth, accepting reality and working for the betterment of all?
Not in my God’s house.
I’m grateful that more and more information and light is being shared, understood, and reflected back into the community. It’s time to illuminate those dark places once and for all.