Doing Life Together

worshipping-god-2101347_1920Carla struggles with anxiety. She sought help from a local community mental health center. When she told the therapist that she recently had a faith experience of being born again, the therapist told her that religion would only make matters worse and probably increase her anxiety. Carla was taken aback and decided to find a different therapist who would now incorporate her new found faith into working with her mental health problem. Already, she noticed relief from anxiety when she spent time in prayer. She was anxious to find a therapist who could work with her on applying the Bible to her life and anxiety.

Freud made it a point to say that religion was no more than a massive neurosis. And even though there are mental health physicians and therapists who still hold this view, religion or spirituality can no longer be considered a neurotic crutch. Research simply does not support this idea. Faith, it turns out, is a strength factor for mental health.

Tepper et al., (2001) in a study that assessed 400 chronic patients, found a relationship between a person’s faith orientation and their symptoms. Psychiatric symptoms were lower in those patients who had integrated spiritual coping mechanisms into their lives. Spiritual coping strategies included prayer, attending religious services, worshipping God, meditation, reading Scripture and meeting with a spiritual leader.

In terms of the prevalence of depression, people of faith fare better with less depression than those of no faith. Perhaps one reason is that faith- based communities provide hope and caring. Other studies (e.g., Koenig & Larson, 2001)  point to lower suicide rates among those in the faith-based community. Part of the thinking is that a being in a spiritual community enhances self-esteem, improves personal accountability and gives people an increased awareness of God-all positives in helping with depression.

So if faith is a crutch, I’ll take it as it leads to improved mental health. One then has to ask, why do people want to remove this strengthening factor from the culture? If faith brings positive results to a person’s mental health, we should desire more of it, not less.

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