Healing Line

Healing Line

The Physician's View

by Dr. Grant Mullen
Jan/Feb 2002

Part 1 of a Series on Emotional Disorders

How I Became Involved in Emotional Illnesses

As I was growing up in the church, emotional or mental disorders in believers were always spoken of in hushed whispers. It is understandable that any personal medical problem is confidential and should be spoken or with great sensitivity, but there was another message communicated by the hushed whisper. The unspoken message was that emotional illness was a sign of spiritual and personal weakness and that strong Christians really shouldn't suffer from these conditions. In recent years I have even heard a denominational leader state that "no Christian of good character will ever suffer from depression." Another pastor and leader stated to me that "if there was more repentance we could empty the mental hospitals."

These careless statements by Christian leaders cause so much unnecessary suffering in Christians. These men are basically saying that emotional illness is the fault of the victim and that they should be able to get out of it themselves. This very damaging opinion is widespread in Christianity and has heaped condemnation and shame upon the most emotionally vulnerable in the body of Christ.

When I started family practice 20 years ago, I was totally untrained and unprepared to deal with the large number of people suffering with emotional illnesses that came to my office. I just referred them to psychiatrists as I had been taught to do. Some returned much improved on a new medicine but others were totally defeated, feeling that their faith had failed them and they were condemned to a life of psychiatric illness. I saw so much emotional suffering in Christians that I began to ask God how could this many, sincere well–meaning Christians have such emotional pain.

Out of my desire to help, I began to try some psychiatric medicines on people showing signs of depression. To my absolute astonishment (which I of course never let on to the patients) many began to improve. Since that time I have become so interested in emotional disorders, particularly in Christians, that I have converted my entire practice to mental health.

Within a few years of my entry into the mental health field . and, more particularly, the treatment of Christians, I became aware that pastors and Christian counselors were as confused as I had been about the role of medical psychiatry in Christian emotional illness. I began to hear reports of pastors resigning from ministry due to overwhelming discouragement. They clearly had become depressed and rather than· go for treatment, which they still considered as unbecoming a Christian, they left the ministry in total burnout.

I was also hearing of pastors who resigned out of the complete frustration of not being able to effectively help the endless number of people coming to them for counseling. So many of their parishioners were not improving after receiving the pastors' advice. The pastors then commonly assumed that their "anointing" or "calling" had lifted or that God was not as powerful as they had thought, so there was no longer any point in continuing in ministry.

This situation does not have to continue. It has become clear to me that the same way that humans are made up of body, soul and spirit, so our bondage also comes in three parts. We can be bound in body (psychiatric mood disorders), soul (emotional wounds of the past) and spirit (the attack of Satan). The path to freedom must address all three areas of bondage.

In this series of articles, we will examine the physicalbiochemical (body) causes of emotional illness and how medical treatment works. I hope to remove all the mystery, misunderstanding, confusion and stigma attached to depression, manic depression and other disorders of mood and thought control.

You can be free. Let's start the journey today.

Dr. Grant Mullen is a mental health physician in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of Why do I feel so down when my faith should lift me up? Jan/Feb 2002 Issue