For those who are said to suffer from the many different disorders categorized as mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they often feel alone, stigmatized, and misunderstood. Those who yearn to help loved ones and neighbors with mental disorders can feel helpless as to what they can do for them and burdened with a heartbreaking responsibility.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, based in Bethesda, Md., "The burden of mental illness on health and productivity in the United States and throughout the world has long been underestimated." Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada for ages 15 to 44, and many people suffer from more than one disorder at a given time.
Across this grim scene a bright light waits to shine truly hopeful and transformative rays. The world will be a better place for our having given the matter attention and prayer, because the issues surrounding mental illness are so central to the ills facing humanity.
In the 142 years since Mary Baker Eddy discovered it, Christian Science has delivered many people from mental torment (see report of healing of bipolar disorder in the Christian Science Sentinel, July 14, pp. 12-13). Christian Science treatment doesn't begin with conventional methods of addressing mental illness – including prescription medications with their host of side effects, or psychoanalysis – all of which assume that the cause of the trouble exists in the brain. In fact, Christian Science asserts that healing answers lie in the opposite direction. "Every concept which seems to begin with the brain begins falsely," wrote Mrs. Eddy. "Divine Mind is the only cause or Principle of existence. Cause does not exist in matter, in mortal mind, or in physical forms" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 262). Mind and Principle, as used here, are synonymous with God.
The authority for that statement comes from the teaching of Jesus. Two of the Gospels tell about a man he healed who had the symptoms of severe mental illness and how Jesus restored him to "his right mind." No longer a tormented recluse, he became a functioning member of society – and an advocate of Jesus and his healing power (see Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39).
If Jesus had seen only an emotionally disturbed man who needed to be changed into a sound one, he wouldn't have been able to heal him. As Christian Science explains, Jesus healed by seeing everyone as God created them – perfect as He is, whole, free, always in their right mind. And his example shows us how we can approach the issue of mental illness and help alleviate it. To Jesus, even the most difficult of human circumstances were not hard and fast realities. They were situations to be spiritually confronted – and overcome. He specifically urged his followers to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8, American Standard Version). And Christian Science teaches that, as we follow Jesus' example, it's possible to maintain spiritual facts in the face of the most discouraging material appearances. This is the Christlike model for attacking any problem through prayer.
The Christ is God's transforming message of hope and healing. It speaks individually to each consciousness, without exception. When entertaining the Christ in one's thought – that is, willingly seeking to understand God's power to see His creation as He knows it – healing must result. We can all help make a difference in the lives of those who struggle to find mental peace.
On behalf of those who suffer from mental illness, we can refuse to believe that God has destined lives of pain for them. We can refuse to believe that heredity or imbalance or stigma define their identities and instead advocate for the spiritual wholeness and freedom of each individual. We can see more in the way that Jesus saw, and work at adopting the Christ consciousness, in support of these fellow beings and their families.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.