Vista Clinic

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Mental Health and Religion

At Vista Clinic we have a multidisciplinary approach to mental health and Pastoral Counselling is an integral part of the team. We offer spiritual focussed assistance in "Grief recovery", "Guilt resolution", "Forgiveness", "Healing relationships", "Boundaries", "Reconnecting with God", "Facilitate illness-faith-God relationship", and "Spiritual growth".

Over the past two decades much research had been conducted with regard to spirituality/religiosity and mental health. Vista Clinic, however, has integrating spirituality into our treatment program for the past thirty years.
At Vista Clinic it is our understanding that the term "spirituality" is referring to the individual's internal need to connect with the Transcendent, understand their purpose and gain meaning in life in regard to their hope, values, and belief systems. "Religiosity", is referring to ones expression of this spirituality via morality, rituals, doctrine, prayer, praise and worship as well as their desire to belong to a community of believers.

Research is showing a positive association between spirituality/religiosity and a meaningful impact on the healing process of those struggling with mental health problems. It is also indicating that a belief in the Transcendent being (God) is associated with a reduction of depressive symptoms. The research has also indicated that a large percentage of people seeking mental health care want their spiritual needs to also be addressed.

Findings show that a collaborative approach to religious coping (i.e. the individual collaborates with 'God' in coping with stress) is associated with the greatest improvement in mental health... One review of the literature has suggested that religious beliefs may allow a person to reframe or reinterpret events that are seen as uncontrollable, in such a way as to make them less stressful or more meaningful. (Cornah, The Impact of Spirituality upon Mental Health: 3).

Frequently Asked Question:
• Is mental illness a sin?
No, it is a treatable illness like any other illness. It, however, may be the result of sinful behaviour; for instance the abuse of drugs.
In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus asks if the suffering of the Galileans and those on whom a tower fell was because they were worse sinners than those who did not suffer and His answer was, no.

• Is mental illness as a result of a lack of faith?
No. Faith, however, does contribute to the healing process and making sense of your illness.

• Does having a mental illness make me a bad Christian?
No, Christians also struggle with mental illnesses. It would appear that Moses (Numbers 11:11-15), Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-9), David (Psalm 13), and many others struggled with emotions similar to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. David, however does say, "The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all." (Psalm 34:18-19 (World English Bible)).

• What does the Bible say about mental illnesses?
Not much; just like it does not have anything to say about cancer, HIV, diabetes or any other illness either. But we do read in Psalm 103:3 & 4: "He forgives all your sins; and heals all your diseases; He redeems your life from the pit..." In Psalm 94:19 we read: "When anxiety was great within me, Your consolations brought joy to my soul."
Even as in the days of Jesus, leprosy was a scourge and people were rejected by the community, but Jesus was a friend to them and healed them.

• What will the church think of me or my family if I am receiving treatment?
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that mental health issues are illnesses just like any other and that it is a treatable illness. Unfortunately there are individuals, however, who may judge you claiming that it is as a result of a lack of faith or because God is punishing you. Remember, though, that Job's counsellors told him the same, and in the end the LORD was angry with them for what they said (Job 42:7).

• Is depression a self-discipline problem?
Self-discipline is important for the Christian, but no amount of self-discipline is going to cure the medical condition.

Are mental health problems a demonic problem?
Not necessarily. Demonic oppression can cause depression, but it is not responsible for every case of mental illness. In the same sense we will not attribute HIV, cancer, heart disease to demonic oppression. However, we do read in Scripture that the boy that was having fits needed to be delivered from a demon possession and the assistance given by the disciples was somewhat lacking (Mark 9:14-29).

Does prayer help for those suffering with mental health issues?
Most definitely, yes. Prayer and a relationship with the LORD is very important in facilitating the healing process. A large number of people who suffer with mental health issues find hope, reassurance, meaning, and resilience through their relationship with God and the prayers of others. However, this does not mean that if you are praying you won't get ill or that you don't need medication. Prayer is not a substitute for medical treatment.

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