CRKVAMENTALNABOLEST - 1 In press Mental Health Religion...

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1 In press, Mental Health, Religion & Culture Demon or Disorder: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Mental Illness in the Christian Church Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798 To whom correspondence should be addressed Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Baylor University One Bear Place #97334 Waco, TX 76798-7334 Tel: (254) 710-2236 Fax: (254) 710-3033 Email: [email protected] Word Count (including references) = 2,097 RUNNING HEADER: Mental Illness and the Church
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2 Demon or Disorder: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Mental Illness in the Christian Church The present study assessed the attitudes and beliefs that mentally ill Christians encountered when they seek counsel from the church. Participants ( n =293) completed an anonymous online survey in relation to their interactions with the church. Analysis of the results found that while a majority of the mentally ill participants were accepted, by the church approximately 30% reported a negative interaction. Negative interactions included abandonment by the church, equating mental illness with the work of demons, and suggesting that the mental disorder was the result of personal sin. Analysis of the data by gender found that women were significantly more likely than men to have their mental illness dismissed by the church and/or be told not to take psychiatric medication. Given that a religious support system can play a vital role in recovery from serious mental disorders, these results suggest that continued education is needed to bring the Christian and mental health communities together.
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3 Demon or Disorder: A Survey of Attitudes Toward Mental Illness in the Christian Church It has long been understood that individuals experiencing psychological distress are more likely to seek help from religious leaders than from any other professional (Chalfant et al., 1990). This results from the fact that religious support offers the psychologically distressed individual resources that are unavailable through more general social support (Fiala et al., 2002). And indeed, research has shown that religious support can play a key role in recovery from psychiatric illness (Fitchett et al., 1997; Lindgren & Coursey, 1995; Yangarber-Hick, 2004). Unfortunately, the negative influences of the anti-psychiatry movement of the 60’s and 70’s (Adams, 1970; Mowrer, 1961; Szasz, 1961) are still being felt in the Christian community today, limiting the possibility of a holistic approach to treating mental disorders that incorporates both religious and psychiatric resources (McMinn et al., 2001). This movement perpetuated the idea that the causes of mental illness are solely spiritual in nature (e.g., personal sin, lack of faith) and thus should be dealt with in a pastoral counseling context separate from all secular psychiatric or psychological involvement. Although the relationship between the Christian church and the mental health profession remains tense, inroads have been made on both sides. Sensitivity to
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