Church leaders tackle the stigma of mental illness

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The Rev. Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, with his daughter Melissa Page Strange, 32, who took her own life in 2009. Photo courtesy Frank Page

The Rev. Frank Page, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, with his daughter Melissa Page Strange, 32, who took her own life in 2009. Photo courtesy Frank Page

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(RNS) For years, Southern Baptist leader Frank Page did not share the painful details of his daughter's suicide, fearing that some Christians might speak ill of her if they knew. Mental illness and suicide were taboo topics for many churches, seen as a kind of spiritual failure. That may be starting to change.

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  • xiomi

    I am a new christian who suffered from borderline disorder and adhd with out being diagnosed/treated. My loved ones worked around my issues. Until I began going to service. Since I’ve been saved I have worked on shame and guilt from my behaviors.. I found god and am trying to keep my mentality under control. Having faith and also realizing that I need help. I can’t make people “understand” me if I don’t try to conduct myself like the bible says. Anger, impatience they are foolish. Its really hard bc ppl judge me for my actions in accordance with my “religion”. But each day I’m trying to be a diligent christian and live w my issues.

  • Tammi Baumgartner

    I know EXACTLY what you are talking about!!! I have suffered with depression all my life and my husband is bipolar and we both have been JUDGED by the “church”….I was told I was a new creature in Christ and old things are passed away therefore IF I was a new creature I did NOT suffer from depression anymore!

    My husband has been disqualified from ministry by some Pastors because of bipolar.

    My husband was actually having a bipolar “episode”, before I even had heard of that word….and stole my baby and disappeared….he was NOT medicated because I had been married 4 years and was clueless he even had a problem….his family certainly never told me! But because I was FRANTIC OUT OF MY MIND for HOURS over my daughter and said some thing the Pastor thought was disrespectful to his wife…..which was, after searching all day talked to the Pastor’s wife and found out he had had my baby out to the church but was now gone….I blurted out, “I’m going to kill that SOB!”

    I was kicked out of the church and stripped of my duties as a member of P&W, leader of women’s jail ministry, leader of small groups, and teaching the 2 yr olds!!!

    I was never offered HELP….just JUDGED, RIDICULED, and DISMISSED after YEARS of faithful service….physical, financial, and spiritual!!!!

    I didn’t even know what I was dealing with….but no one was “ALLOWED” to be there for me…..NO ONE!!!

    My husband was hospitalized FINALLY and I was visited by a “deacon” to tell me my husband was sick because I was in sin for leaving the church…..

    See I grew that church after getting saved between my business and jail ministry me AND my husband both did….but was never “allowed” to say a word to a soul in the church….they only heard the Pastors excuses….it just about KILLED ME….I LOVED that Church and everyone there especially the Pastor & his wife… was DEVASTATINGLY HEART WRENCHING for us both!!!!

    Even though my husband was never asked to step down or leave….JUST ME….when I needed more help and prayers at any time in my life….my church was NOT there for me…or even US!

    My husband went to the Pastor apologizing trying to make things right but the Pastor tried to get him to DIVORCE me….that’s when he came home and said he does NOT have the heart of a Pastor….a PASTOR would never try to keep a family GOD put together apart!!! VERY SAD!!!

    As long as my husband is taking his MEDICINE he is as normal as anyone else now…..

  • Karen

    I am so glad to see our churches moving into the direction of openness of mental illness. Our adult son has been battling schizoaffective disorder disease for three years. After a failed suicide attempt in 2012, we were finally able to recognize he had a serious problem and started seeking to find him consistent dedicated help. The road has been long and lonely. The church was and is totally unprepared to address these issues. Thankfully, I’ve had intimate sisters in Christ who have been our prayer warriors. They still don’t understand the disease yet have agreed whole heartedly and willingly to stand in the gap with their prayers especially when I no longer could pray. When I was desperately looking for answers from a Christian perspective, I only found one book, Grace for the Afflicted by Dr. Matthew Stanford, that helped answer my questions as a parent of a child struggling to survive the torments of mental illness. I am so glad to see the church awakening to such a great need. Praise God.

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