the price of prayer: the absence of mental health in the black church

September 13, 2016
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The views of mental illness in the church are something that drastically needs to change. I’ve seen first hand how churches don’t take mental illness very seriously at all.  Something I’ve always noticed is how prayer for the different areas of healing are treated.

By Jasmin Pierre*, AFROPUNK Contributor

For example: “Sister Tasha is going in for chemo therapy. Let’s pray for the doctors to do their job and that she fully recovers in Jesus name”


“Brother Malcom just broke his leg and is in the hospital. Let’s pray he does well in physical therapy and is healed in Jesus name”

I don’t see anything wrong with either of those statements. They both involved getting help and prayer. I believe in God. I believe faith without works is dead. However what I don’t like to see is how the church treats those who are dealing with mental illness. Most of the time you don’t hear the preacher or assistant pastor tell someone dealing with mental illness to go get help. No you hear a statement like

” If you’re depressed that’s a Demon! You need to only fast and pray to get that spirit out of you! You haven’t been praying hard enough!”

It’s just a demon you say? No talk of going to get help? How do you know this person hasn’t already been praying? By not saying it’s ok to go get help in addition to prayer is like implying that their illness isn’t real. As for me growing up I noticed something. In the black community a lot of us were raised to think that church was the only way for mental Illness. We were taught that Depression is nothing but a demon and mental illness is a big sign of weakness.

This is why so many sit in church on a Sunday stressed and depressed but say nothing about how they’re suffering. They go to church and hear a good word but still leave out depressed. People dont want to go through the hurt of the church not  viewing their illness as real. This is how many end up not getting help or ending their life. I’ve actually even heard of people being kicked out of their church for trying to end their life. How is that Godly? How is that loving or caring?

I actually have a pastor that never treated me that way. When I tried to end my life I wasn’t bashed. When I said I was going to get help I wasn’t told that I was crazy. I was encouraged to both get help AND I was prayed for. If you are a believer THAT is how you should treat a person. You should not be condemned or shamed for being sick.

Church leaders need to be more mindful of what they say when it comes to situations like this. I feel like more mental illness training needs to be established as well. Making a member feel like they aren’t believing in God hard enough when they are sick is very  DANGEROUS. You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer, diabetes, or the flu not to get help. So DO NOT do that when someone is suffering from mental illness. It could very well mean their life.

*Jasmin Pierre is a 27-year-old mental health activist and author of the new self help book “A Fight Worth Finishing”. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. Jasmin is constantly fighting for the rights of those suffering from major depressive disorder. She inspires to become a life coach and continue writing to encourage others to never give up.

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