I write here very little about my spirituality, because I want to make sure all who come to this site feel welcome. But I do think it’s important every now and then to reinforce the notion that postpartum depression is NOT a spiritual failing.
Dr. John Grohol over at Psych Central reported last week on a new study in which " …more than 32 percent of Christians who approached their local church for help with a personal or family member’s mental illness were told by their clergy that they did not really have a mental illness. They were told the cause of their problem was solely spiritual in nature — such as a personal sin, lack of faith or demonic involvement." These were all people, by the way, who had been officially diagnosed by a psychiatric professional. Even worse, " … women were more likely than men to have their mental disorders dismissed by the church."
UGH. It’s just not true, and it’s just not fair. Mental illness is real. Does having a strong faith help? Absolutely. Does God give you great tools to help live a more grateful and contented life? I think so. But people still get sick, and it doesn’t mean they’re possessed by "the demon". It just doesn’t.
Here’s another piece on this topic that I like called "Depression, It’s Spiritually Incorrect" from Therese Borchard at the Beyond Blue blog on BeliefNet. A highlight:
"Somehow Christians and God-fearers of all religions are programmed to believe they are "above" mental illness and depression. Faith conquers all.
Even though these devout individuals don’t feel morally weak when coming down with a stomach bug, or something more serious like a viral pneumonia or arthritis, they absolutely do feel morally bereft if anything (genes, stress, illness, trauma) disrupts the structure and function of brain cells, destroying nerve cell connections–resulting in neural roadblock to the processing of information (which happens with depression)."
Clergy could do so much to help others by educating themselves on mental illnesses and being supportive rather than placing blame. Help us access the various tools and treatments that God has blessed us with, including the church or temple or mosque, as well as therapy, medication, nutrition, exercise, support groups and whatever else helps.