Mental Disorder in the Family

By: Dr. Tim Clinton

Encourage the family member or concerned friend of a mentally ill person in the following Action Steps.

Action Steps

Lessen the Risks
If there is any risk of violence, get professionals involved immediately. Remove any weapons (guns, knives and anything else sharp, ropes, scarves, sheets, or belts) and drugs from the home. If the person appears to be suicidal, try to observe him [her] until help arrives. If the person is expressing extreme anger or paranoia, get out of the way. Do not block the individual’s exit. Instead, let him [her] leave and then call 911.

Get Professional Help
Talk with a professional if your loved one is: threatening violence, causing financial hardship, abusing substances, participating in dangerous or destructive acts, or disappearing without explanation.

Get Medical Help
The answer to the problem may lie in a drug that will help stabilize your loved one’s disordered brain chemistry. Psychiatric treatment should always be considered in such cases, even if not always used.

Connect with Support Groups
There are many support groups for those who love persons with mental disorders. The best known is NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which sponsors both support and advocacy across the country. Other groups can be found by contacting your local mental health agencies.

Get Local and Practical Help
Local mental health agencies should have information about financial help, health insurance, supportive counseling, and other interventions that can aid persons with mental disorders and their families. Persons with chronic mental disorder who need ongoing help may benefit from programs such as day treatment or supportive living facilities.

Get Spiritual Help
God is for those with mental disorders. Be sure to be spiritually sensitive and unbiased in your love and heart to them. Help the person with mental disorder understand his [her] need for Christ. Is he [she] a Christian? Does he [she] know the plan of salvation? Does he [she] understand what Jesus can do in his [her] life? (See John 1:12; Romans 3:23; 6:23.)

Pray for wisdom regarding your approach to helping the person with mental disorder. Does he [she] need advice, encouragement, education, correction, a support system, insight, confession, verbal reinforcement, modeling, or confrontation? Be very careful with a person wanting to quit his [her] medications and seek out a counselor’s or pastor’s help for a miraculous healing or demon deliverance.

Live in Peace
Do not blame the person with a mental disorder or get sucked into arguments with him [her]. The person is, indeed, ill, and your blaming him [her] is like blaming a patient for a heart attack.

Biblical Insights - But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him. 1 Samuel 16:14

King Saul, who reigned in Israel before David, displayed many classic characteristics of a mental disorder, including wide mood swings and fits of depression and anger. A person can develop such debilitating emotional symptoms for many reasons. In this case, Scripture indicates that “a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled” Saul.

Saul’s heart had turned from God, so God permitted affliction by a spirit of distress—possibly a demonic influence—to occur. Not all mental disorders are a result of demonic influence, but like any sickness or disease, the battle for our minds is a result of the fall and Satan’s presence in this world.

That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:33

We are spiritual beings, created by God and incomplete without Him. Also we are physical beings, and a physical disease can lead to psychological or spiritual problems, and vice versa. Then too, we are psychological beings, meaning that each person has a mind, emotions, and a will. The interrelationships among these three realms in our humanity mean that specific problems may have many symptoms and causes behind them.

If believers face some form of an emotional problem, they should seek counsel from wise, well-trained, and qualified Christians who can treat them with a comprehensive approach. During such a time, other believers must surround the hurting brother or sister in prayer. God promises to help His people through even the most difficult times.

Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. Luke 8:26–27

In the case of the man who lived in the tombs, his condition was caused by demon possession. Usually, however, mental disorder has other causes, such as genetics or hormonal imbalances.

Such people need assurance of their worthiness before God, as well as Christian professional help. Jesus has the power to heal many kinds of afflictions.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14

This classic text in Thessalonians reveals that Christian counseling is about much more than fighting the challenge of sin and includes those caring activities that are necessary for people who are not able to walk strongly by themselves, including those who suffer from disorders that are part of a sin-sick world.

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