Mental health and spiritual power

A Christian Science perspective: Why love is particularly needed in the treatment of mental illness.

The good news in this week's cover story is that there's some progress in destigmatizing mental illness as someone's fault. It's also encouraging to see that mental health care that emphasizes the dignity of each individual has a positive effect beyond what medication can do. Considering the whole person rather than simply focusing on treating the disease, having a nonjudgmental attitude, and giving people as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions are expressions of love that evoke good response in any type of health care.

It's useful to probe a bit deeper into why love is particularly needed in the treatment of mental illness. No matter how disturbed people's ability to reason may be, they relate to love on a different level from reason. Even in the middle of tragedy, people are grateful when a stranger hugs them. Love calms and comforts naturally.

Still, when no amount of human love is adequate to deal with serious mental disorder, there's a stronger love to call on. Spiritually considered, love is the very core of existence, the intelligence and power that causes everything to be. We can define Love as the universal Mind, the reality many call God. Divine Love is independent of the brain. It expresses itself constantly throughout creation. Everyone's true identity is in fact the expression of infinite Love.

These insights can't be confirmed by conventional scientific methodology. One grasps them in a different way from human reason. But knowledge of them is practical in healing oneself and others, and this knowledge can be gained through the study and practice of spiritual teaching. When Jesus said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30) and "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do" (John 5:19), this can be understood to mean each of us is inseparable from the perfect Mind, the loving Father and Mother of all. This relationship gives the ability to act reasonably and lovingly, an ability that can't be lost.

As a Christian Science practitioner who treats people through prayer, I've found that these spiritual truths have strengthened my conviction that healing, not just managing, mental disorders is possible. Labeling a disease and grading its curability can make people feel like victims of something beyond their control. But the knowledge that divine Love creates us perfectly and loves us unfailingly puts a rock of assurance under efforts to heal disease. It has helped me and many colleagues over the years to put down fear and blame for the afflicted and their families and to persist in bringing out the health that's God-ordained.

The mental health care system needs help. Good care should be the norm, not the exception. When Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), could he have been pointing to the ability to heal ourselves and others spiritually that is always accessible? Referring to that statement, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote: "Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love" ("Pulpit and Press," p. 3).

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