Mental health is a hot topic today, perhaps because of the string of mass casualty shootings in recent years, the opioid crisis, and a burgeoning homelessness problem. Nearly everyone knows someone experiencing psychological problems that adversely affect their quality of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, one out of every five Americans will experience a mental health issue in 2019, yet many do not receive the help they need. Many do not know they need help because their condition has never been diagnosed. Depression and anxiety are widespread in modern society, yet they remain the most undiagnosed conditions in healthcare.
Whether a psychological problem is temporary and mildly disruptive to the person’s life or is severe and requires careful medical management supplemented by intense psychotherapy, it is important to provide help to individuals from a whole-person perspective. This means engaging each individual person as an integration of physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects.
Christian Healthcare Centers’ commitment to the total well-being of our patients is guided by what God says concerning the human person (Genesis 1:26-28). Since God views each patient as a whole person: body, soul, spirit, we do too. Since God created the whole person in his own image, we treat each patient with respect and dignity. God’s intention in creation was for each person to flourish and live well in his creation, experiencing harmony with himself, the material world, and other image-bearers. That is how life on earth should be and this is the definition of “quality of life” we pursue.
Perhaps the term “mental health” should be replaced by “whole person wellness” since the correct focus of healthcare is treating the patient as a whole person.
The human person is not just a collection of biological and neurological parts. People are more than a body and a brain. They are an integration of body, soul, and spirit, which is a perspective that distinguishes Christian medicine from many of the theories, methods and alleged truth claims that make up the behavioral sciences.
All of the conditions referred to as mental health issues impact the entire person, even when the principal cause of the condition has a biological basis. A brain tumor can alter decision making. A life-threatening disease can impact the sufferer’s relationship with a spouse, spawning adverse emotional outcomes. Likewise, an act the Bible calls sin produces physical, spiritual, and emotional outcomes, some of which manifest themselves in psychological disturbances. This is due to the fact that human beings function as whole persons, with each aspect of their being affecting the others.
What is the root cause of human psychological problems? Knowing this is important in order to provide real help that is more than a band aid.
People experience broken relationships, endure cruelty from other humans, experience lethal diseases, and lifelong disabilities because our world is not the way it was created to be. When God finished his creation, he declared it “very good” (Genesis 1, 2). Genesis 3:1-15 records the actions that resulted in the corruption of this “very good” creation; corruption that is the root cause of human misery.
God did not corrupt his own creation. Humans did that. One word defines it: rebellion. Throughout human history, people have rebelled against their Creator. This rebellion is why humans are alienated from their Creator, why the material world can be cruel through natural disasters, crop failures, changes in climate, sicknesses, and diseases that do not seem to have a cure, why humans go to war against one another. It is the reason why marriages do not always work out, why violent crimes are committed against others, and why some people act in ways that defy rational explanation. The event theologians call the Fall is where sin, corruption, disease, and criminal acts find their root cause. It is also the event out of which come genetic defects, physical and psychological disabilities and death occur. The world is not the way it was supposed to be. A well-known Christian psychiatrist once said to his students, “The only person to ever have perfect mental health was Jesus Christ. The rest of us are crazy; it’s just a matter of degree.”
Fortunately, the story does not end there. Through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, God has graciously provided the only real solution to the consequences of the Fall. Through Christ, God has “bought back” (redeemed) his creation. Through this redemptive act, he is restoring the original goodness of his creation that will one day result in its full and complete restoration in the form of a New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-4).
In the space of time between the present and the not yet, Christians are called to live redemptive lives, always striving to recover and retain whatever created goodness remains, and to push back against the effects of sin wherever it is found.
This means in our homes, relationships, vocations, neighborhoods, schools, and churches, we strive to take that which has been corrupted by the Fall (sin) and do what we can to bend it back toward its original created goodness. That is what Christian doctors and counselors are called to do. Where there is depression, we strive to help restore the depressed back to a state of peace. Where there is disease, we strive to move patients from a state of disease to wellness. Where there is anxiety, we strive to push back against the causes of that anxiety and restore contentment. Where there are broken relationships, we seek ways to bring about reconciliation.
Any condition referred to as a mental health issue impacts the entire person, even when the principal cause of the condition has a biological basis.
A brain tumor can alter one’s decision making. A life-threatening disease can impact the sufferer’s relationship with a spouse, spawning adverse emotional outcomes. A genetic miscoding can result in many different kinds of physical and emotional pathologies. Similarly, acts the Bible calls sin produce physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional disruptions. Like the laws of nature, e.g., gravity, defying the moral laws of creation have consequences for the whole person since one aspect of their person affects the others. We are not saying that every sin has a corresponding physical or mental health consequence, or that genetic diseases are the direct result of a specific sin. However, we will say that many of the issues dubbed mental health stem from sin.
Broken yet physically healthy people living in this fallen world often refuse to see their need for spiritual care, which can result in both short-term and long-term consequences. Too many mental health professionals reject the Biblical approach to providing whole-person care, and they especially reject any notion that sin plays a part in human behavior. In fact, having received their training in non-Christian colleges and universities, many counselors and therapists are committed to counseling and therapeutic models that support lifestyles and life choices that reject or ignore Biblical teaching. The counseling provided at Christian Healthcare Centers is thoroughly grounded in Scripture and what it says about the human person, relationships, and personal ethics.
As a Christian healthcare organization, Christian Healthcare Centers strives to remove the stigma associated with seeking help for psychological and emotional needs, and to reduce the cost of getting care by employing counselors who work seamlessly with our entire clinical team to bring their training and experience to bear on the needs of patients. We do this because we believe God has called all of our providers to care for the whole person – body, soul, and spirit.
Although a medical doctor may focus more on the body and a counselor the soul/spirit, together as Christian practitioners they combine their skills and knowledge to facilitate the best possible outcome for the patient’s well-being.
Unlike Christian Healthcare Centers, most doctors’ offices do not integrate counseling into their practice by having a counselor onsite. One reason because today’s doctors do not have the time to provide a timely mental health assessment of their patients to make counseling part of the patient’s care plan. They ask the canned, pre-formed questions about mental health that the patient’s insurance dictates, but generally avoid diving too deeply into the patient’s life. They ask whether the patient feels safe in their home, whether they keep firearms in the home, but seldom inquire about the health of the patient’s marriage or other personal relationships, and virtually never ask about the patient’s spiritual health. Consequently, depression and anxiety disorders largely go undiagnosed and those that are wind up with prescriptions for anti-depressants. It is easier to prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications than take the time to track down the root causes of the patient’s depression or anxiety. However, God has not called Christian Healthcare Centers to take an easy path. Instead, He has called us to join Him in his mission to restore His fallen world, one image-bearer at a time.