Speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week, the singer Demi Lovato took advantage of the powerful platform to advocate for mental health care in America. “Like millions of Americans, I am living with mental illness,” she said. "Too many Americans from all walks of life don't get help, either because they fear the stigma or they cannot afford treatment."
“Mental illness” is a scary-sounding category that encompasses a broad array of invisible struggles. Look around you on Sunday. Most likely, there are Christians next to you suffering silently from anxiety or panic disorder, bipolar disorder (from which Lovato suffers), dysthymia or major depressive disorder (from which I have suffered). Whether through personal experience or through someone we know, those of us whose lives have been touched by mental health struggles know that getting help can be the hardest part.
Women are twice as likely to experience mental health struggles as men, thanks to major hormonal challenges such as pregnancy and menstruation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of women between 18 and 44 years of age are affected by depression, and many of them don’t get the help they need. (My own disorder went undiagnosed for almost six months before I got help from doctors and therapy, and even then, the recovery process has been hindered by bad advice, mistreatment, and poor choices about whom I can rely on.)
Unfortunately, many of us who have spoken up in church communities have been told to “pray harder” or “have more faith.” These suggestions might be well intentioned, but they often discourage and isolate those of us in desperate need ...1
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