How Mental Health Can Best Be Restored
WHEN mental illness strikes, it is a cause of great sadness to those affected. Yet there is no need for a family to feel shame when this happens. In many cases mental illness can come just as does some physical illness, such as the flu or heart disease. And even where physical causes are not a major factor, there is still reason to be hopeful and take a positive attitude. The question is, What best can be done?
Often a combination of treatments is best. Most importantly, however, the suffering one should receive help from understanding family members or friends who are able to impart real hope and encouragement. These ones can take comfort in the fact that, as with other ailments, persons often recover from mental illness spontaneously, as the body in time adjusts and heals itself. And even when this does not occur, there is much that can be done to help the sufferer.
The greatest need of such a one is to be loved. The importance of this is now stressed over and over again in medical literature. This means that family and friends should be patient, putting up with the person when that one acts erratic, irresponsible, or is unreasoning or otherwise difficult.
Where can this needed help best be provided the mentally ill? In some mental hospital or institution? Quite likely not. In fact, a book prepared by four medical doctors says: “A major goal is to keep patients out of the hospitals whenever possible. Sometimes that alone is a victory, because with some of our present mental hospitals, there is a probability that the patient may be better off at home.”
At home the patient is in familiar surroundings. He or she has the attention of vitally interested parties. Care can be given with the goal of recovery or improvement. But is education in a worldly school of psychiatry necessary in order to provide this help?
Psychiatric Schooling Necessary?
Interestingly, psychiatrists themselves acknowledge the shortcomings of psychiatric schooling. David S. Viscott, for example, states that the psychiatric board certifications have “overlooked many of the most important qualities which make a good therapist, such as his interest, his honesty, his curiosity, his openness, his humanness, and his willingness to help. Most of [these] were things they didn’t teach in school.”
Going farther, Dr. J. D. Frank, author of Persuasion and Healing and coauthor of Group Psychotherapy, says psychiatric schooling is not necessary to aid the mentally ill. Psychology Today of April 1973 explains: “Frank believes a person with no training at all can be just as successful a clinician as a psychiatrist. ‘The therapist’s personal qualities,’ he says, ‘may have more to do with his success than his training in a particular method.’”
Certain psychiatrists have acknowledged that the wisdom and understanding contained in God’s Word the Bible is of greater value in treating the mentally ill than is worldly schooling. At the close of a long and successful career, the late psychiatrist Dr. James T. Fisher wrote this in his book A Few Buttons Missing: the Case Book of a Psychiatrist:
“If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene—if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage—if you were to . . . have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount.” That sermon by Jesus Christ is recorded in the Bible at Matthew chapters five through seven.
Time and again, mentally unbalanced persons have been restored to health by receiving from qualified Bible teachers proper guidance and instruction based on the contents of that Divine Book. Consider some examples.
The patient was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as a paranoid schizophrenic. After ten years he was pronounced incurable and was able to stay out of a mental institution only by taking thirty-three pills every day. He took no interest in his appearance or in life in general. Then one of Jehovah’s witnesses calling from house to house managed to start a Bible study with him, and patiently inculcated in him its righteous requirements and the promised blessings to come to mankind under God’s kingdom. After eight months the man needed no more pills, and four months later he was pronounced fully cured.
Then there was the woman in Michigan who, for many years, had received regular psychotherapy, shock treatments and had spent $5,000 on drug treatment. Yet, she still kept threatening suicide. However, after studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses she was able to discontinue taking drugs as well as quit smoking. She phoned her psychiatrist to tell him that now she felt better than she had ever felt before and what accounted for it. He replied that he wished all his patients could find a cure like that.
What made the difference with these persons? How did Bible instruction help them?
As a result of their studies they gained a strong faith in the Creator, Jehovah God, as a personal God, and a real helper. (Isa. 50:7; Dan. 6:27) They came to understand why God has allowed wickedness and human suffering until our day, and how, soon now, God’s government will crush out of existence the causes of world troubles. Gaining confidence in God’s promises of the righteous conditions soon to be enjoyed on earth changed their whole outlook on life. They had hope!—Dan. 2:44; 1 John 2:17; Rev. 21:3, 4.
But that is not all. They also learned to live by Bible principles, including how to apply love, joy, peace and self-control in their lives. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Certain persons have been especially helpful in aiding them to do this.
Qualified to Help
Due to their years of study of God’s Word and practical experience in handling personal problems, many Christian elders of Jehovah’s witnesses are well qualified to help those mentally or emotionally sick. The Bible command may be fittingly directed to these men: “Speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all.”—1 Thess. 5:14.
Guided by such divine counsel, Christian elders are aided to be sympathetic and upbuilding to persons coming to them for help. They thus manifest genuine interest, patiently hearing the troubled one through. They know the importance of not being quick to censure, but agreeing whenever they can with the ill person, recognizing the mental disturbance. Thus they are in position to work to comfort and help that one to recover. Kind and understanding elders have thereby assisted many persons to gain and maintain balance in this mixed-up world.
Providing the Help Needed
When helping a mentally disturbed person, Christian elders try to determine what has precipitated the unbalance. Is it deep-seated feelings of guilt? If so, God’s mercy can be stressed, as the Bible explains: “If anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one.” (1 John 2:1, 2) And the elders can show the Scripturally prescribed course, namely: “He that is confessing and leaving [one’s sins] will be shown mercy.”—Prov. 28:13; Ps. 32:1-5.
Or perhaps it may be determined that the problem is that of anxiety. Here there is a need to stress the importance of, and the reasons for, faith in Jehovah God. He welcomes us to ‘cast our burdens upon him.’ One way we can do this is by heartfelt prayer, and the elders can demonstrate by praying in behalf of the listening troubled one.—Ps. 55:22.
Obviously, it does not follow that every case of mental illness can be cured solely by helping persons to apply in their lives the Bible’s divine wisdom. Other measures may also be indicated, an important one, meriting early attention, is a complete physical examination. There have been cases, for example, where something as simple as an impacted tooth has been found to affect the brain, causing mental aberrations, even though it caused the sufferer no physical pain. When the pressure was relieved by removing the tooth, the mental disturbance ceased.
In other severe cases, use of certain medically prescribed drugs may be necessary to help relieve mental unbalance. And not to be overlooked is what has been said about the role that nutrition can have in restoring mental health.
However, based upon what experience has shown, we can be confident that mentally or emotionally disturbed persons will especially be helped by the counsel and guidance from God’s Word. It is the desire of Jehovah’s witnesses to make available the soothing and healing effects of this Divine Word to as many persons as possible in this distressed world of mankind. If you care for such assistance, or know of anyone who does, please contact Jehovah’s witnesses. They will be happy to call and help persons to benefit from the healthful, upbuilding principles of the Bible in their lives.