Dear Church, Let's Talk About Mental Health

“Pastors are not meant to get therapy” vs. “Pastors really need to get therapy.”

I used to live by statement number one... probably why I ended up living statement number two.

Let me start by saying that I am still a pastor, I still believe in the absolute power of Jesus to heal the heart and I’m still a huge supporter of church counseling and ministry. But I feel compelled to raise my voice and say:

Therapy is not demonic.

Taking antidepressants is not a sin.

Seeing a psychiatrist is not anti-christian.

And those who suffer from mental health problems are not a failure.

Lord knows we need more openness in our congregations because (and this is a fact) 50% of adults will develop depression, PTSD, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or some other mental illness in their lifetime.

Half of the people reading this article already have (or currently are). And for the sake of our family, friends and church leaders, we need to break the shame. Jesus is the hope for each and every one of our needs. He’s the miracle worker who, “healed every disease and every sickness.” And when Jesus healed the leper, the demon possessed, the broken-hearted, he never blamed them for their condition. Jesus is not a religious leader who will condemn us if we seek help, Jesus is the high priest who understands our weaknesses.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

Yes, that was Jesus talking about himself in Mark 14:34.

He knows how it feels.


To talk of a person’s mental illness like it was a result of a sin, curse, or demon possession is to further stigmatize, shame, and isolate those who are struggling. It is stone throwing people who need understanding and a helping hand. Yes, it is possible that sin and curses and demons are part of the issue, but we need to focus on the person. And admit that we don’t have all the tools or all the answers for the different situations that need attention.

The church is the place many turn while in crisis. We cannot keep turning away the most vulnerable among us. We have to learn how to approach and relate to their specific needs.

As Brandon Peach wrote,

“Most churches probably have the very best intentions when dealing with issues of mental illness. Like the rest of society, however, the Church may misinterpret these clinical conditions and respond to them in ways that exacerbate them—and as a result, demoralize those suffering. Christ, the Great Physician, came to heal the sick. As His body, it’s time the Church leads society in helping to do the same."

In the past the Body of Christ has had three dominating approaches when dealing with mental illness:

  • Treat it exclusively as a spiritual issue.

  • Ignore it completely.

  • Treat it exclusively as a medical issue. 

I write this article not as a pastor, or a doctor or a trained counselor... I approach this subject mostly as a past patient.
A few years ago I needed to visit a psychiatrist to talk about my depression. It was

the first time in my life where I actually felt helpless, totally unmotivated and OK with the idea of suicide. Being able to talk to a professional who could specifically diagnose me and recommend treatment was liberating. Actually, in that moment it was the Godliest thing I could do.

However, I also needed friends who listened. I needed my leaders to pray. I needed God’s word and encouragement. And in certain moments, I just needed to ignore it all and focus on the things I love to do.

There are too many families in our congregations who are struggling with addictions and depression and all sorts of abusive behavior. I know that because that was our case. And in the middle of it, prayer was great... but it wasn’t enough. Sounds heretic just writing it. But it’s necessary that we talk about it.

I spent 8 months with a professional counselor who taught me how to manage my anger, improve my moods and take ownership of my situation. He gave me books to read, coached me with technics for relaxation and he saw Catherine and I together for marriage guidance. He used specific evidenced-based treatments to treat my conditions and used cognitive behavioral therapy (stuff I would have never considered before) because after many years in full time ministry and after 10 years of terrible behavior as a husband, I needed professional help.

I used to be so ashamed to share it. Now, I celebrate where God has taken me individually and where God has taken us a couple. And I am so glad I didn’t just go for ministry, or a one-time repentance fix, but actually invested money and time with a health care professional.

It was not perfect. A few times I considered punching my therapist (Hi Dolan! Love you bro). But after months of weekly sessions, I am absolutely convinced that God took me there.

I have heard stories of people getting healed in one moment. It’s happened in my own life in other circumstances; and I pray that for us all. But the reality for most is that the hurts and rejection of the past, combined with actual illness of the mind, require more time, more care and more attention. It starts with us pastors getting help when necessary. It continues with the church as a whole empowering people to do whatever it’s necessary to be made well. It demands open conversations with those who have overcome, and with those who are still struggling.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.” Thomas Merton

It ends with us caring more about people (and their health) than about our limited opinions and hindering theology. The religious mindset wants to control how people heal. It wants to determine the rules of engagement for all scenarios and situations. But spiritual maturity is demonstrated by the increase in realization of the help and grace you need. And the heart of Christ is to heal the brokenhearted.

Maybe you’re the broken-hearted in this scenario, can I encourage to ask for help?

And if it takes visiting an actual doctor to help you with your situation, then I know for a fact that Jesus will be holding your hand the whole way through. He did it for me.

Because Jesus is the hope for everyone struggling with mental illness. And the hope for the church that’s ignoring it.

Might be a good time to stop pretending and start attending to this real need. For my sake.

And yours.

* We can all help prevent suicide. This lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.



Carlos A. Rodríguez is a pastor, an activist, and a communicator. He's the CEO of The Happy NPO and the author of Simply Sonship, Drop The Stones and the upcoming Proximity. Together with his wife Catherine, they have three gorgeous children and have moved to Puerto Rico to continue relief efforts all over the Caribbean (post hurricane Irma and Maria).
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97 comentarios
  • I really appreciated this article…..Thank you for you vulnerability and honesty.
    I also suffer from depression….
    I also keep growing through it… through Recovery meetings and I stay connected to my close friends for support and accountability. This walk with God is a journey. We stumble and fall back into default and when recognize repent and go forward.
    I get help physically to keep a balance of eating and exercise .
    I can’t do ANY of this WITHOUT God. I believe and have faith in My ONLY LORD AND SAVIOR for ALL of my life.
    Yes… I live in my fleshly body and my reality is life in this world…. yet I pray faithfully to be graced to stay away from sin and toxic issues… and that can be in the church as well as family and the world!
    God bless the person who is able to comment that he is unstained as he seems to believe it’s only him and Jesus! And Gods truth. I happen to believe the church uses people in their various gifting to offer their help and the world is given doctors and nurses to be used in the world.
    I do not think the author / pastor who wrote this article sought out a worldly psychiatrist … most likely sought someone who is a believer in Jesus himself … with the knowledge and expertise in the workings of the mind. Where I would distinguish in my personal relationship in Christ is IF I placed my faith in my psychiatrist rather than being extremely grateful to the Lord for blessing me to find the help in him …and remains very true to Jesus as my most Holy recipient of my love and devotion!!!
    Thank you .

    Ellie de Jong en
  • All of you hating on this article are seriously the problem! If you broke your leg you wouldn’t pray for it to immediately be healed. You would go to the doctor and get a cast and crutches and heal over time. If you had a family member cardiac arrest in front of you then while you would say a prayer you would also dial 911 and get your loved one life saving treatments and medications. Most of you probably take blood pressure meds, meds for diabetes, or some other condition and never think twice about asking God to heal your high blood pressure. Yet when someone seeks help or take meds for a mental illness you judge and shun. You are all hypocrites and not actual pictures of the unconditional love of Jesus.

    Dana en
  • hi martha chesser,
    i’m glad your testimony was published. it is and will help many. :) may you continue to rest in the grace & mercy of The most High Yahusha and know that you are loved and kept no matter what!

    angela en
  • What an awesome article! I thank God for Jesus, and I thank God for the gifts He has given to us in the form of health professionals. Because of Jesus and health professionals, I have been bipolar disorder free and medication-free since 2002. As a poet whom God has granted the opportunity to speak to many audiences, I share the story of how I struggled with mental health issues. I believe God wants us to tell others how we were healed; this is how we help to overcome the stigma of mental illness. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us that God comforts us in all our tribulations so that we may be able to comfort others with the same comfort we received from God. Finally, may we never forget that Luke, the compassionate writer of the Book of Luke, was a physician. God gives us gifts in men; we just have to avail ourselves of their services.

    Barbara Smalling en
  • Dear Carlos- love this article and so true! But what are your experience or take on victims of abuse from someone with a mental health disorder and advice given bt the church. Neither my current husband or I were supported in our choice to leave our very toxic relationships. The abuse was not visible to the human eye but the scars on our soul and our spirit are real. We were the ones who sought therapy to help our former spouses, but they refused to be helped and made us out to be the problem – as most narcissist and borderlines do. The church has ostracized, alienated and even participated in some added abuse unknowingly because they are uneducated. Unqualified to deal with people in our situation. Would really love to hear your thoughts opinions on this as well.

    Jeanine en

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