The dictionary defines health as, “Physical and mental well-being, freedom from disease, normalcy of function. As humans we are composed of a body, soul and spirit. The body puts us in touch with our world through our senses. The soul is our mind, emotions and will, which give us self-awareness and rational thought. The spirit puts us in touch with God. All three are interrelated. The brain is a physical organ and must function right for good mental health.
From a practical perspective regardless of your moral or spiritual values, ill health will show up in our physical and relational health. Research has shown that 80 percent of our physical disease is psychosomatic. The disease is real, but the etiology of it is the soul or spiritual part of us. It is often about how we view or react to the external stressors of life. For example, Elijah got depressed and fatigued from the circumstance of Jezebel threatening to kill him for destroying her false prophets. King Saul started experiencing bouts of rage that eventually made him suicidal because of his jealousy toward David. His guilt and bitterness from not owning his disobedience to God contributed to this. It may be hard to define mental health, but we will see the manifestation of it in our body and our relationships.
What causes mental illness?
The brain runs on electricity and chemicals. When these are out of balance, it will not function properly. Trauma to the brain will also affect mental health. Genetics play a role in mental health just as it does in our physical health. Everything we do with our brain changes it; this is called neuroplasticity. This includes the thoughts we allow to run through it. Scripture says as a person thinks in his heart so is he. (Proverbs 23:7) How we choose to react, think about, and interpret the way others speak to us, treat us and the events that happen to us have a major affect on our mental health.
People are very complex beings. The mental dimension of our life includes our thinking process and emotions. All of these systems are affected by our relationships and how we interact with the rest of our physical world. Mental health is a very complex process and people should not be mocked or dismissed as simply being “crazy.” There is always a reason why people do what they do whether rooted in the conscious or unconscious memory. This is a field worthy of being acknowledged and studied for the betterment of mankind.
Why is mental health so important?
Aside from the individual enjoying a happy and productive life, mental health is necessary for good relationships with both God and man. We are made for relationships. They are key to a happy and fulfilled life. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Emotional health is necessary for spiritual health. The Bible is the story of relationships. Man’s sin and fall ruined his relationship with God and others. When Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God they started to have conflict in their marriage and their home. God gave Israel the 10 commandments among other reasons to show us how to do life. The first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God, and the last six have to do with our relationships with others. Jesus said the Bible can be summarized into two commands – “love God with all your heart, mind and soul… and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) There can be no spiritual maturity without emotional or mental maturity. Achieving true mental health helps us fulfill God’s design for our life and would change our world for the better.
What is the cure for mental illness?
There is not a simple answer to this question. Real mental illness cannot just be attributed to sin or cured by just attending church more or reading more Bible (as helpful as these things can be). Neither can the therapist see God as the enemy. Help will come from more research in neurology as well as psychology. The medical community and new medicines will contribute more tools to aid people. Advances and improvements in therapy along with caring therapists, life coaches, and spiritual counselors will be front line soldiers in the war on mental illness. Spiritual formation with its spiritual disciplines will open a world of help to people. Churches with biblical teaching, delivered by compassionate pastors who rely on God’s spirit is a form of mass counseling that can help many who are reluctant to see a therapist. We are seeing the results of mental illness today in our culture and our homes. It is a major problem and will take a team effort with many people and disciplines working together. However, together with dependency upon God we can bring hope to so many who struggle with their mental illness.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.