Coming soon to—a beautiful new design. Get an early look

Jump directly to the content
Guest | Limited Access

Subsciber access onlyarticle preview

Available to TCW subscribers only. or subscribe now.

Mental Illness is No Laughing Matter

How the church can better respond to individuals suffering in darkness

No First PageNo Previous PagePage 1 of 3Next PageLast Page

Throughout history, mental illness has met with confusion, misunderstanding and mistreatment—even horror, persecution and torture. Though we have made progress in fits and starts, people with mental illness have never had more hope for productive life than they have now. But despite the progress, we live in a society that is still deeply confused about mental illness.

Misinformed by the media

Have you ever paid attention to the way people with mental illness are portrayed in popular media? While some outlets treat mental illness with honesty and sensitivity, most of popular media treats the mentally ill as frightening, funny, or both. Most people don't seem to give it a second thought, but for people whose loved ones suffer from ongoing mental illness, such portrayals are hard to ignore.

Try watching movies like Psycho, Strange Brew, Crazy People, The Shining, Misery, and Fatal Attraction through the eyes of someone who struggles with mental illness. Or turn on the TV this week and watch with a new perspective. On any given evening, you should be able to find at least one show that either reinforces terror of the mentally ill, or makes light of their illness for a cheap laugh.

Misinformation, as well as entertainment that pokes fun at people with mental illness—and in some cases encourages laughter at the idea of their mistreatment—accomplishes three things:

  1. It further marginalizes and dehumanizes people with mental illness by treating them as caricatures. It's easy to laugh if we forget we're laughing at real people suffering from real illnesses.
  2. It encourages persecution and mistreatment.
  3. It discourages people from seeking help for mental illness. In an environment that vacillates between mockery and horror, who wants to be the one to raise a hand and say, "Yeah, that's me. I need to go to the doctor to get my medication adjusted."

Serious mental illness has mythological status in our culture. No wonder so many people in the church—just like those outside the church—have no idea how to relate to a real person who acknowledges or displays a mental illness. This general societal misunderstanding of mental illness affects all of us.

Creating a loving Christian response

In her book Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness, Kathryn Greene-McCreight shares journal entries, stories and spiritual insights from her experience living with bipolar disorder. She mentions this about Christians' response to mental illness: "Christian communities still have a fear of the mentally ill. In part they do not understand mental illness, in part there is a false assumption that the Christian life should always be an easy path, and in part the problem of suffering is hard to grasp."

article preview

This article is currently available to TCW subscribers only.

To Continue Reading:

Amy Simpson

Amy Simpson is the managing editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today's Christian Woman and the editor of Connect with Amy at

Sign up for TCW's free e-newsletter, Lifework with Diane Paddison, for biweekly updates and encouragement for women who desire to pursue God through their calling and career.

read these next

for further study

Downloadable resources to go deeper

Your Guide to Sexual Satisfaction

God's plan for sex is multidimensional-here's how to move past making pleasure your goal to seek a more intimate connection with your spouse.

Living Water

A three-session Bible study designed to quench your soul thirst and invite others in.

Practicing Contentment

In our culture, we have more, but seem to enjoy life less. Here are tips on how to foster deep, counter-cultural contentment in your life.

Sexual Temptation

Desire happens. Here's how to keep a misled God-given desire from ruining our lives.
Today's Christian Woman
Mental Illness is No Laughing Matter