People struggling with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, and ADD may feel that having faith in God is hopeless. However, faith can play a huge role in overcoming these illnesses.
The Cru Counseling Center encourages students to join a church, a local ministry or see a Christian therapist or counselor if they feel they are struggling through mental illness.
Therapist, and UMHB almuna, Leslie L. Brown, MA, LPC intern, said it is important for people to discuss mental illness from a spiritual standpoint.
She believes that through faith people can believe that they are battling mental illness for a reason and that one day they will no longer struggle with these illnesses.
“Most importantly, those who have faith also have hope,” Brown said. “First they have hope that God is with them as they go through their battle with mental illness. Second they have hope that even if they struggle with their mental illness for the rest of their life, one day in Heaven they will be free of it. Third they have hope that their struggle has a purpose since God does not waste.”
Brown wants people with mental illness to realize that medication and godly counsel are helpful tools in finding a cure for mental illness.
“I believe in some cases the Bible and prayer alone are sufficient, but not in every case. Sometimes godly counsel is necessary,” she said. “I believe some medications are a gift from God, and I have seen medication lift a person’s mood just enough for counseling to be effective.”
Senior pre-med biology major Kia Torres has seen firsthand the effects of faith on mental illness.
Torres has struggled with depression and anxiety since she was diagnosed at the age of 10.
Throughout Torres’ middle school and high school years, she struggled with suicide, drugs, partying, and various other vices. In Torres’ freshman year at UMHB, she attended church with her Cru leader. This church service changed her life forever.
“The pastor was speaking on Psalms 139, and how you’re made for a purpose. I busted out crying, and I finally decided You’ve proven yourself to me.”
Once Torres became a Christian, she underwent counseling where she learned that although someone may be a Christian, they can still have a mental illness.
“I realized that depression is something I’m going to struggle with whether I’m a Christian or not,” Torres said. “You can be a strong, solid Christian and still have depression.”
In Genesis, the Bible says that what Satan used for evil in Joseph’s story, God used for good to save many people’s lives.
Torres has a tattoo of a ship in a bottle on her upper arm to remind herself that even when she is going through a rough time with depression, her story can be used for good as well.
“The purpose of the tattoo is [a] reminder that even if I go through the waves (mood swings of depression) I am anchored to God, and my story can be used to witness to others.”
Torres has advice for those who are struggling with a mental illness like she did for so many years.
“The first step is accepting the fact that it’s okay to not be okay,” Torres said. “Recognize the signs and be proactive about it. Look at it in a positive way that your life is not your own. Look at it in ways that you can grow, and bring other people to Christ.”