According to an AHN Media article on a Texas survey of clergy members, some members of the clergy are reluctant to label some of their congregants mentally ill.
Alright. I’m not a big one for the labeling of people mentally ill, and so I applaud those religious leaders who are also skeptical about the matter. After all, if we had the mental health system 2000 thousand years ago that we have today, any man claiming to be the son of God could have found himself in a mental hospital. I’m of the opinion that the mental health system also might have been more effective at silencing any such an individual than were the Roman authorities of the time. Executions of the sort the Roman’s officials resorted to had the effect of producing martyrs to a cause, and the cause that resorted in the ascendancy of the Christian religion eventually ousted the older and more indiginous pagan religion from its privileged position in the empire.
A Baylor University study found some clergy members attribute mental distress to environmental or spiritual factors rather than mental illness, even when the afflicted individual has been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Researchers found that about a third of the clergy members in the United States who were approached for help by someone with a diagnosed mental illness, or by someone seeking help for someone else, told the person seeking help that they or their loved one didn’t really have a mental illness.
The rate of serious mental illness we have in this country has been climbing since the dawn of the twentieth center, and this rate has really jumped since the introduction of neuroleptic drugs. These members of the clergy are apparently not as wild about contributing to the current epidemic of serious mental illnesses that we are experiencing these days as are certain other groups of working professionals.
What we’re dealing with here is a conflict with one psychiatric theoretical school in particular, not all psychiatrists are so thoroughly interested in singling out individuals for psychiatric labeling and the chemical disabling that goes along with that labeling. Biological psychiatry is a theory of psychiatry that downplays environmental and social factors in favor of genetic or biological aspects in the development of mental illness. If the mental illness rate has risen so dramatically as it has during the last century, then obviously there are environmental and social factors involved in this sharp incline.
As for ‘spiritual crisis’, who is to draw the line, and where do we draw it, saying, uh, this is mental illness, and that is spiritual crisis. One person will turn to a priest or a preacher for solace, another person will turn to a psychiatrist or a mental health professional for assistance, but this doesn’t mean that one course of action is superior to another. If the truth were known, I imagine the priest or preacher in the long run is as likely to have as good, if not better, results with their disturbed congregant than the psychiatrist or mental health professional is likely to have with their client or patient.
“The results are troubling because the demographic of this sample is considered to have the most and easiest access to mental health care, but yet, by their admission, they seem unwilling to access mental health care that is available to their congregants,” said Dr. Matthew Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, who led the study. “A majority of them also do not believe they come into contact with very many congregants that have a legitimate mental illness, however we know roughly one in four Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness this year, making it likely that they will come in contact with it.”
I suggest that perhaps these clerics are not encountering so many people with mental illnesses after all, and that perhaps many of those people thought to be mentally sick are actually possessed by demons, and that therefore exorcisms are in order. I think that if such is the case, then the success rate of clerical experts at expunging demonic possessions from members of their flock is bound to be much superior to the recovery rates achieved by mental health professionals for people trapped in the mental health system where prospects for recovery have tended to be dismal.