Studies within the past eight years, have recorded an increase of Christians who are utilizing mental health services in lieu of religious tools to achieve mental stability and balance. Have Christians begun to jump ships on their faith for a quick fix?
Francis Jackson, a social worker at Harvest House in New Jersey says, "No." "I have been a Social Worker for the past 26 years. I am a Christian and I am also a professional in the mental health industry. Realizing that you need help is a blessing. Reaching out to receive that help is a greater blessing. Why go through difficulty alone when you don't have to? Seeking help is not a denouncement of your faith. We have to get real about mental illness. It's real."
One in 17 Americans is diagnosed with a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Since the decline of the economy in 2008 with the loss of employment, homes and high debt, mental health practitioners have seen an increase in prescriptions for mild to severe depression.
"I have noticed an influx of referrals to mental health professionals within the past five years," says Jackson. "People want relief. They are looking for answers to get their lives back. Sometimes you can't find those answers alone."
Chris Parker, a financial planner, who recently lost her mother, believes that there is nothing wrong with being a Christian who attends therapy. "I believe in prayer. However, there are certain circumstances that occur in your life that test the foundation of your faith. When I lost my mother this past September, I could not function. I had no idea if I was even grieving correctly. I knew that I could not work through this myself and needed a third party objective person to help me. I reached out for therapy and was given medication for mild depression. Nothing can prepare you for the death of your mother. My faith was shattered and I needed help to cope."
The concern of mental health in the body of Christ has become a huge topic of discussion in churches. Many churches have recognized the need and have proceeded with calls of action to address mental illness by hosting health fairs and seminars facilitated by local and national psychologists and psychiatrists.
Yet, not all parishioners are sold that therapy and pills are not just another gateway for the devils entry into a Christian lifestyle.
"Our faith is our connection to God. Once we break that connection, there is no faith," says Alexis Ritvalski a mother of three from Texas. "Why do Christians feel a need to seek the advice or help of another person, when Christ should be all that we need? We don't need psychiatrists to fix us or depression medication to relieve us. There is deliverance in the Word of God. There is breakthrough in the Word of God. There is healing in the Word of God. Every situation that we endure, there is a word for us. To seek out these other methods is to not trust God."
Pastors have the difficult task of preaching faith while remaining in tune with the everyday realistic issues that their congregation may face. "It's not easy," says Pastor Carlton of Lindenwold, N.J. "Salvation is personal. All of us must answer for the decisions in our lives. We don't become depressed overnight. The question is not if it is right for Christians to attend therapy or take medication but who or what have we been seeking all along to get us to this point. The sum total of many of our decisions have lead us to our now. We must take spiritual responsibility and question what has really taken the place of our faith."