The Importance of Spiritual Support and Understanding for True Mental Health
Life in America is spiraling out of control. From the unremitting stories of wars, terrorism, and suffering, to the ongoing threat of worldwide economic collapse and the clash of cultural ideologies at home, we are experiencing unprecedented levels of psychological stress in our lives. Violence has become epidemic. 1
According to website Shooting Tracker.com, there were 372 mass shooting in the U.S. in 2015, killing 475 and wounding 1,870. Just a few examples from last year’s survey include 26-year- old Chris Harper-Mercer, who killed several people and wounded others at a rural Oregon Community College before he died in a shootout with police. Reports of those who survived say that Harper-Mercer asked the victims’ religion, shooting them in the head if they responded “Christian”, while shooting those who stated another religion, or didn’t answer, in the leg. In June, 2015, Dylann Roof, 21, massacred men and women during a prayer meeting at one of the South’s most venerable black churches. In May, 2014, after promising a “day of retribution” on YouTube, a heavily armed, 22-year- old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree near the University of California. The list sadly continues to grow at an alarming rate…
According to news accounts, all of these individuals, realizing they were in serious trouble, reached out for help before their shocking acts of violence occurred. All of them were given drugs as a treatment. The prescribing psychotherapists, who were monitoring their progress, failed them – as well as every shooting victim and their loved ones — at a terrible cost. Sadly, 2016 also has its own list of such tragedies. We owe it to ourselves and future generations begin to transform our thinking. It is clear that prescription medications are not a blanket solution to this problem. Too many of our fellow humans are engaged in huge inner struggles with their soul, which only escalate when they are not spiritually supported and guided.
Almost one in four adults suffers from a diagnosed mental disorder. Fortunately, not all of these people are driven to the extreme violence of mass murderers. But in our current society, psychological diagnoses are more common than not; anxiety, depression, cutting, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, attention-deficit disorders, bipolar disorder, suicide, schizophrenia, plus an assortment of syndromes, phobias, and personality problems abound. Use of antidepressants, sleeping aids, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic medications has become the norm. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in a given year there are over 57.7 million people affected.
In contrast with this evidence of cultural breakdown, a recent major survey by the esteemed Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life revealed that 92% of Americans believe in God. There is also widespread attention to the “spiritual” in popular culture. Almost 1-in- 5 Americans call themselves “Spiritual but Not Religious.” There is a desperate yearning for spiritual understanding in an increasingly-complex world. The search for meaning, which is so crucial for psychological health, has lost its traditional anchors.
The mental health system seems to have forgotten that the term “psychology” derives from the Greek and Latin word “psyche.” And psyche refers to the interaction of mind, soul, and spirit. The mental-healthcare system seem to hold a worldview that only what science can prove is real, and anything else should be medicated away. It does not recognize the soul, the depth of human nature, or the Western sacred foundation of our Judeo-Christian tradition. It is this foundation which explains that each human beingmust differentiate between Godliness and destruction, between good and evil.
So, what can mental health professionals, and our society as a whole do, in lieu of prescribing medication, to alleviate these spiritual conflicts and suffering, and keep our society safer? First, we must realize that the angst experienced by everyday folks is a serious societal problem in and of itself. But an even bigger problem is that almost all mentally-ill persons — including all of the mass murderers cited – have reported extreme and overwhelming psychic or spiritual suffering to their psychotherapist…which is tearing their souls apart.
What do those suffering these spiritual splits need from their caretakers?
The mental health system should not write off a person’s deepest conflicts between good and evil, right and wrong, Light and Darkness, love and fear, as “delusions,” “hallucinations,” and/or “religious ideation.”
They need to know that their pain is acknowledged and understood;
They need care givers to ask if, in fact, they are able to recognize and understand that their soul is in terrible pain;
When a person decides to choose the good – the Light — he needs help to intentionally align his whole Self with the Light and bring it forth when the dark, destructive voices or feelings come over him;
They need to also be encouraged to engage in an active practice like prayer or meditation to help him remain with that Light;
They need a spiritual elder or guide to work with and support them; not a psychiatrist with a prescription pad.
Evil is a real force, an immensely powerful and destructive force. It closes the human heart. But Godliness – which is deep within each person’s soul – can transform such darkness to Light. Psychiatry, Psychology, Religion, and our entire culture, must start to fully acknowledge this timeless truth. We no longer have a choice.
What challenges we humans face; how complex we are – and so fragile at the same time. Isn’t it time that we accept the difficulties and the mystery, and open to the possibility that mental illness is not entirely what we think?
Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center Survey, 2013; “Stress levels soar in America by 30% in thirty years,” Research from Carnegie Mellon University analysis, reported in New York Daily News, June 12, 2012.
Check out my website here: www.drjudithmiller.com