This past Sunday I attended church. I was invited by my uncle’s girlfriend and decided to go because she told me they’d be discussing mental health. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, I was thinking the pastor would be preaching “just pray and your mental illness will go away”. It’s common, especially in the Black community, for others to tell those struggling with their mental health to pray about it. There’s nothing wrong with praying but as someone who lives with mental illness, I don’t think it should be seen as a treatment or a cure. I haven’t had the best experience with church in the past. I was shamed for my sexual orientation while attending church and since then it hasn’t been for me. That being said this experience was a positive one and I’m glad I decided to go.
I agreed with a lot of what the pastor talked about. He read a passage from the bible that touched on a man with mental illness who was cutting himself with stone. He went on to talk about how most times people who cut themselves aren’t doing it to try and kill themselves, they’re doing it to express the pain/anger they feel. I could relate to this as I’ve struggled with cutting myself since I was 11 and one of the main reasons I self-harm is to express what I’m feeling. He also talked about therapy which I really loved because it’s something I advocate for. More and more people are starting to realize how beneficial therapy can be for our mental health. There are still some people who believe going to therapy means you’re “crazy” and I love that he made a point to say that going to therapy doesn’t make you crazy. It’s crazier to not go to therapy if you need it and the resources are available to you. There were two separate prayer sessions and I think they might have been my favorite part of the entire service. Lately, I’ve been having talks with God. A few months ago, I published a blog post opening up about not knowing who or what God is. I still feel this way. I still feel like I’m unsure of who or what I’m praying to… but I know I want a relationship with whatever it is.
I think this church did a phenomenal job of discussing mental health and mental illness. They did talk about letting God into your life if you’re struggling with your mental health, but as I mentioned earlier it wasn’t a situation where we were told to just pray about it. There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health but every day I see more discussions about it and more people opening up about their personal experiences.