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         Mental Illness
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‘Out of the depths


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Vale June Wood Details

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CHRISTINE GUTH

That year my mood began plummeting. The tasks of ministry were getting harder, and I had to force myself to keep at them. Medication that had helped for over a year was now failing me. My doctor held out hope that two particular meds in combination would be the “magic bullet” for me, as it had been for several of his patients. “Oh no!” I thought. “Now I am really sick to need two antidepressants!”

Despite my sense of shame about it, I followed my psychiatrist’s advice.  His intuition was right. As spring arrived that year, the sun emerged from the clouds for the first time in many months. After a few weeks, I was feeling better than I

ever remembered feeling. It dawned on me that I had been living with depression all my adult life—even from as early as age 12. Until that spring, my life had been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but, I realized, even the best times were coloured by depression.

A few months after I began to feel hugely better, depression started afflicting my son, then ten. For three tumultuous years we struggled to find effective treatment while I wrestled with agonizing theological questions, starting with “Why should a child be suffering so?” Mental illness raises theological questions that defy answers. Those of us with mental illness deeply need people who will face the abyss with us without flinching. Are our churches willing to enter such theological struggles with us?

Unfortunately, stigma often keeps the body of Christ from embodying the tangible love of God to those affected by mental illness. Stigma keeps us isolated in our suffering. It keeps us from accessing treatment that could help. Stigma prolongs and intensifies suffering.

Depression is a physical illness of the brain, not a bad habit we bring on ourselves because of character weakness or moral failure. We don’t get depression from not trusting God enough.  These are truths we need to integrate into the common practices of our congregational life. When someone has the courage to talk about feelings of hopelessness, let us affirm the courage and extend extra care. Churches can make mental illness something we regularly talk about, pray about, and even lament over in our public worship. In these ways, we can embody Christ’s love to the many among us who suffer from a mental illness.

In CONNECTIONS March 2008

Publishing details unknown

Christine Guth is program director for Anabaptist Disabilities Network


(                                                                 , a Mennonite disability advocacy ministry in the United States).  She leads a local support group for parents of children on the autism spectrum and is active in organisations that support people with mental illness and their families.

 

Christine Guth Anabaptist Disabilities Network