(Photo: CNN Screenshot)
Nearly 50 percent of American Christians believe that prayer and Bible study alone can cure mental illness, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, credited this response to Christians' faith in God.
"I applaud those out there who really believe in the power of God," Clinton told Moody Radio show host Chris Fabry on Thursday. "It's an encouraging time. People continually look for out for God spiritually for hope, for help."
Sixty-eight percent of Americans said they would feel welcome in church if mentally ill, though 54 percent of all Americans said that the church needs to do more to prevent suicide.
One of the first steps the church must take is to avoid stigmatizing Christians taking medication for their mental illnesses, said Clinton.
"So often we trivialize one another's pain, especially emotional disorders. Somehow we think this is a weakness or a horrible sign," said Clinton. "Don't get me wrong, I understand both sides of the river, I debate both sides. I know there are people taking medication who probably don't need to be on it, and I also know there are people who are not taking it who probably need to be on it because of biology."
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said that Christians must better relate treating mental illness to physical illnesses.
"They forget that the key part of mental illness is the word 'illness'," he said in a Lifeway blog reporting on the survey. "In a typical evangelical church, half the people believe mental illness can be solved by prayer and Bible study alone."
Several prominant Christian leaders have recently begun to talk more frankly about mental illness following the suicide of their children.
Christian megachurch pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay, were interviewed by CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this week about their son Matthew who committed suicide earlier this year. Both have become strong advocates for the church being forthcoming in the mental health conversation since his death.
Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who lost his daughter to suicide recently, convened a meeting earlier this summer with other Baptist pastors to discuss how to better address mental health within the church. He also wrote a book about his daughter's struggles called Melissa.
Nationally, mental illness has dominated discussions about the possible motives of the gunmen in last year's mass shootings in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, as well as a first-grade class in Sandy Hook, Conn., and also more recently in this week's mass shooting in the Washington D.C. navy yard.