Monday, April 15, 2013

Mental illness and the Church

Recently mega church pastor Rick Warren lost his son to suicide, after years of his son fighting depression. I understand all too well what it is like to have a family member with depression. My mom battled mental illness my entire life. 

My mom has tried to kill herself more times than I can count. It feels like it must be hundreds of times, but likely it's only in the 20s. Her method of choice was drug overdose, but on several occasions she slit her wrists as well, never caring who may find her...whether it be her child or not.

Aside from the suicide attempts are the numerous times she threatened, but did not attempt suicide. The calls to me, as an adult at work, stating, "I think I'm going to kill myself."  But of course meaning, if you do not stop me, I am going to kill myself - somehow the weight of her life or death weighing on me.

I can't imagine a depression that oppressive. And for that I am thankful. Because I don't battle depression. 

But I do battle well meaning Christians who say things like, "You just need to pray for your mom." Or "If you'd just have faith, God would heal her." Again, the weight of her illness weighing on me. 

I didn't cause it. I can't cure it. I can't control it.  Those are the three C's of al-anon, and they have taken the burden that my mom, and so many other well meaning people tried to put on my shoulders. I wish I could cure my mom. I wish I could control the alcoholism and suicide attempts. I wish I could control the mental illness.But I can't.

I feel sorrow for Rick Warren having to deal so publicly with the loss of his son. No doubt, there are people asking him what he did, as if he could control his son's situation - which he of course could not. To Rick, I would say, remember those 3 C's.

And to all the well meaning people wondering why "we" - the family and friends of the mentally ill - don't do more to fix the situation, I invite you to look to God. He gives us all free will. That includes the free will to make bad decisions.

If God does not control human behavior, what makes you think we could?

Kelly Combs is a Christian wife, mom, writer and speaker. You can learn about Kelly by visiting her website at

Chatty Kelly

1 comment:

Kari Scare said...

As someone who has struggled with depression for much of her life, this post resonates with me. I have found tremendous healing in the past few years from depression, but it will always be there in some way. I get the stigma associated with it. It's hard when so many in the church act as if a Christian shouldn't have depression. So much to say about this. For now, though, I am glad to read posts like this that get the topic talked about.