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Author Topic: Mental Illness  (Read 2248 times) Average Rating: 0
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prodromas
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« on: August 17, 2007, 11:27:19 PM »

This is quite a large subject with many differing opinions and if there is already a thread like this could someone please send me that way because I cant find it.

In our society we have a better (I use better very loosely) understanding (well more acceptance) of mental illness and people use it to throw religion on the useless scrap heap after hearing of the exorcisms performed to rid someone of demons who was only suffering of schizophrenia. I saw an interview of a Russian Orthodox priest who is a prominent exorcist in Russia who after years of casting out demons  had gained the ability to differentiate between possessed and mental illness, this same priest walked in psychiatry office and he saw a patient in their suffering from schizophrenia the priest saw that it was a possession case and did an exorcism and cured the man of the perceived schizophrenia, the psychiatrists were amazed they had never seen an actual mental illness cured liked that. This little anecdote is meant to be stimulus material for discussion on the topic of mental illness and how the church treats members with it and how it view members with mental illness and also the main differences between mental illness and demonic possession.
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2007, 11:33:22 PM »

This is quite a large subject with many differing opinions and if there is already a thread like this could someone please send me that way because I cant find it.

In our society we have a better (I use better very loosely) understanding (well more acceptance) of mental illness and people use it to throw religion on the useless scrap heap after hearing of the exorcisms performed to rid someone of demons who was only suffering of schizophrenia. I saw an interview of a Russian Orthodox priest who is a prominent exorcist in Russia who after years of casting out demons  had gained the ability to differentiate between possessed and mental illness, this same priest walked in psychiatry office and he saw a patient in their suffering from schizophrenia the priest saw that it was a possession case and did an exorcism and cured the man of the perceived schizophrenia, the psychiatrists were amazed they had never seen an actual mental illness cured liked that. This little anecdote is meant to be stimulus material for discussion on the topic of mental illness and how the church treats members with it and how it view members with mental illness and also the main differences between mental illness and demonic possession.
This is sure to be a great topic and one that I'm really interested in learning more about. I hope to learn from those more learned on the subject. Thanks for bringing it up, Prodromas.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2007, 12:23:03 AM by Jibrail Almuhajir » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2007, 12:49:32 AM »

Hmm, well I suppose my perspective on this will be a lonely one on the board Smiley I must admit that I've been offended by some things that I've read in traditional Orthodox materials regarding mental illness, even when I was Orthodox. But I was wrong to be offended in those cases, I think. Given the level of medical and psychological knowledge, what were the ancients or medieval people to make of an otherwise normal person who would suddenly or periodically seem to go crazy, or who had always been unstable? In modern times, however, I think we all must (and most do) use a different approach.

If people want to go to a religious healer, then I have no issues with them going (unless they're paying Benny Hinn or something). I don't for a second think that someone is miraculously healing them, but I do think that religion or healers can help in very earthly ways. If the person accepts the authority of the healer, then it's perfectly reasonable to expect at least some help just from the placebo effect. Often religion can provide support (socially, materially, and otherwise) for the ill person. And religion also helps to provide a stable context in which one can live their lives and grow as people; it can help a person find meaning, and give them a place to focus their energies, helping to facilitate positive results.

This isn't enough to heal someone who is truly in dire straights, but it would probably help not a few people who have regular "depression," or other such issues. And even those in dire straights can sometimes be helped by religion, even if it doesn't "cure" them, in that it can help them cope with the problems. However, in the end, some people are indeed to the point where they need professional therapy and/or medication to correct the problem(s). I don't know if the story that was included about the fellow with schizophrenia is true, but if it is and I was a doctor in that situation, I don't think that I would have been that suprised. I would have probably assumed that he was either only temporarily helped, or (hopefully) was indeed cured and had simply been misdiagnosed.

As far as my own experiences with the Church and mental illness, eh, it was a mixed bag. Few people are so extreme as to suggest that someone should not go to a psychologist/psychiatrist. However, there is still a tendency among some to "trust in God" to heal you, and there is still a significant stigma concerning mental illness even in secular circles. I was always encouraged to "seek help" for the issues that I have, and never told to "just trust in God" (which would actually be unbiblical). On the other hand, I have been scolded by Orthodox clergy because of issues resulting from a mental illness. I sometimes have a lot of social anxiety (from the bipolar, and other issues), and quite a few times I drove my wife to Church so she could attend, but sat in the parking lot reading the Bible or a prayer book by myself during services. In two cases, once with a Deacon and once with a Priest, I was publically rebuked for doing so. The priest went so far as to tell me to stop "playing games" (the ironic thing is, I think he was a professional psychiatrist before he became a priest). While neither of these confrontations had an impact on my leaving the Church, I can tell you that it certainly didn't make an already-anxious person eager to go to liturgy more often!

Hmm, so what can I say? I don't agree with all the theology and practice of the Church, but I don't think it does much harm in this day and age (not in the west anyway). I've read works like Orthodox Psychotherapy by Met. Hierotheos, and while I would not now agree with the beliefs in works like this, I think it still presents a pretty stable and even at times lofty belief system in which to live out your life (if you're a Christian).
« Last Edit: August 18, 2007, 12:56:04 AM by Asteriktos » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2007, 12:58:16 AM »

Well, Asteriktos, you're not entirely alone with your position Wink

Indeed, you probably gave more creedence to the traditional Christian approach to mental illness than I would have. Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2007, 11:16:11 AM »

I have seen miracles happen for mentally ill people...

But I would say that in general we need to be balanced in our approach.  Both God and Man need to be a part of the healing process. 
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2007, 06:17:13 AM »

GIC

Well, I probably overstated things a bit. I could have written exactly the opposite views, and still been content that I had accurately conveyed my thoughts. That's the problem, I have too much rabble rambling around upstairs, so I have a problem getting my point across without writing a 5,000 word essay. Just to cover the other side a bit, I'm looking at my review of Conquering Depression: Heavenly Wisdom from God Illumined Teachers on Amazon.com. I gave it 4 stars, and a positive review. If I wrote a review of it today, it'd be quite different. To be frank, what I wrote was based more on idealistic hopes, and maintaining a facade, rather than results. I don't think that the cures given in the book would work for most people these days.
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« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2007, 07:42:56 AM »

GIC

Well, I probably overstated things a bit. I could have written exactly the opposite views, and still been content that I had accurately conveyed my thoughts. That's the problem, I have too much rabble rambling around upstairs, so I have a problem getting my point across without writing a 5,000 word essay. Just to cover the other side a bit, I'm looking at my review of Conquering Depression: Heavenly Wisdom from God Illumined Teachers on Amazon.com. I gave it 4 stars, and a positive review. If I wrote a review of it today, it'd be quite different. To be frank, what I wrote was based more on idealistic hopes, and maintaining a facade, rather than results. I don't think that the cures given in the book would work for most people these days.
It is hard to determine if you disbelieve certain divine possibilities because of disillusionment over clerical ignorance or actual agnosticism leading to atheism.
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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2007, 08:00:58 AM »

It's always because of evidence. One might argue that I am misreading the evidence, or not paying enough attention to certain evidence, or giving too much weight to certain evidence... but it's always about examining the evidence I have before me.
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« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2007, 01:00:29 PM »

The only thing "evident" is that a lack of faith negates any possible benefit of healing found within the Church.
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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2007, 04:55:47 PM »

I must have a reason to have faith first. Otherwise, why choose Christianity? Maybe I should "just have faith" in Islam. The Muslim could just as easily say to me: "The only thing 'evident' is that a lack of faith negates any possible benefit of healing found within Islam". And he'd be equally justified in making such an argument, at least from the perspective of an outsider. Besides, in my case I did try to have faith, for years. Did Orthodoxy change me for the better, did it "heal" me? It probably changed me for the better, though it hardly healed me. Others apparently do find a more significant degree of healing in it, and do see evidence that makes them willing to take a leap of faith; that's great for them.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 04:56:27 PM by Asteriktos » Logged
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