Prayer, Your Mental Health and the elephant in the room

When you break a bone do you not have surgery to get it fixed?

When you get hungry isn't the first thing on your mind is to find something to eat?

When you are dead tired from a long day of work & can barely keep your eyes open how many of you are searching for your bed?

With Mental Health Awareness Month in full swing everywhere you turn someone is promoting the benefits of awareness, treatment, & recognition of mental health disorders all across the united states as we tend to spotlight disorders on a month to month basis but kind of set them to the side once the month is over.
Don't believe me?
Did you know that even though it's just May what we have already celebrated this year?

If you knew about all those months than you definitely deserve a gold star.
Now lets get back to the matter at hand

Why Prayer

I have had the pleasure of practicing medicine for three years as an attending and a total of about six if you include residency in regard to patient contact. I have seen all kinds of disorders & treated many of illnesses in my short career but I have noticed that when it comes to mental illness, prayer only seems to be a common over the counter prescription started for treatment.
At first I didn't pay it any mind because I learned in school that counseling always played a big role in treating many diseases of the mind so why wouldn't prayer be a factor.
In fact there have been times where I have been asked to join in on the prayer to help families grieve, or help attempt to get those at their sickest though a tough patch of illness. And thats ok with me because I know that sometimes families have to believe in a greater power to help them deal with the stress of being ill.
I mean I have been professionally trained to deal with people at the worst point in life in regards to health care so who I am to judge but over time I began to realize that when it came to mental health, prayer seemed to be the big dog in the room & all the medical & mental health expertise seemed to fall by the wayside.

Getting your mental health together 

If I asked you to give me the name of five mental health disorders could you?
If you had to think about it, how likely are you to have a close family member or friend who is dealing with some type of mental health disease?
Would these numbers surprise you?

  • 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental disease
  • 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental disease
  • 1/2 of all chronic mental illness begins at the age of 14
  • 1 in 5 CHILDREN have or will have a serious mental illness

I'll be honest I am not a fan of spotlighting some of these disorders only for a month but you got to admit that Mental Health definitely deserves any spotlight it can get.
It's part of the reason why I get taken aback that there are those who really feel that all it takes is prayer & nothing else to get rid of the mental health “demons”. I have sat in conferences and on panel/forum discussions where inevitably the point of “praying the sickness away” is brought up.
It's usually brought up in a fashion that makes it seem that the lack of prayer is the reason why one may be depressed, anxious, schizophrenic, bipolar and etc..
I wrote earlier about how having a broken bone, being hungry or thirsty usually leads us all to same path to resolve the problem but it all goes up into smoke when Mental Health is the issue.

The Elephant in the Room

You know whats funny?
The worst part about arguing against prayer isn't enough to cure mental diseases isn't the fact that you look like a complete asshole. It is not the fact that there isn't a study that you can quote to your patient to see that there is not scientific evidence to dispute their claims. It's the fact that credit will be given for everything that comes into that person's life to help with the mental health issues except a highly trained mental health counselor, physician and/or medication.
While we are at it we have to address the fact that people in the church have been conditioned to continue the lie that all it takes is JUST prayer for just about every illness. I know lying is a strong word but we can't handle it with kiddie gloves anymore because too many lives are at stake.
I'm sorry but no amount of prayer is going to treat a person who is schizophrenic, deeply depressed, or suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. As a physician I can say that prayer ALONG with counseling, ALONG with medication works extremely well in many cases but I can't continue to allow people to use the “pray it away” defense any more because it's just hurting our communities in the long run.

Can't pray it away

As you can see there are lots of reasons we don't get the Mental Health care that we deserve so If I can remove at least one of the stigmas than I would have done my job.
But now I need you to do yours.
I need you to reach out to someone for yourself or anyone you know that is dealing with an issue TODAY!
I need you fight back against Team “prayer is all I need”.
I need you to think about Mental Health 12 months out of the year instead of one.
Last but not least I want you remember that in your prayers it's not a bad thing to wish for a great mental health counselor or physician like myself.

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Check out these great resources
Mental Health America
A Blueprint when Feeling blue

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