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Can mental illness be cured by prayer alone?comment (0)

October 24, 2013


A third of Americans believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey also found most Americans (68 percent) would feel welcome in church if they were mentally ill.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said Christians care about those affected by mental illness.

He’s glad churches are seen as a welcome place for those with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. But he worries some Christians see mental illness as a character flaw rather than a medical condition.

Christians will go to the doctor if they break their leg, Stetzer said. But some may try to pray away serious mental illness. “They forget that the key part of mental illness is the word ‘illness,’” he said. “In a typical evangelical church, half the people believe mental illness can be solved by prayer and Bible study alone.” 

LifeWay Research asked four questions about mental illness as part of a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans conducted Sept. 6–10.

Along with the two items noted above, the study also found that 51 percent say someone close to them has experienced mental illness. That number drops to 37 percent for those over 65. 

And 54 percent of Americans say churches should do more to prevent suicide. That number jumps to 64 percent among evangelical, fundamentalist or born-again Christians. 

Tim Clinton, president of the Forest, Va.-based American Association of Christian Counselors, said spirituality can play a crucial role in treating mental illness.

He called it “soul care.” 

Clinton hopes more churches will become open to talking about mental illness. That means taking a holistic approach that deals with spiritual, emotional and physical concerns. 

That can involve counseling and medication as well as prayer and Bible study.

(BP)

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