“You’re Crazy!” How to Invalidate Someone Permanently and the Christian Imperative to Accept the Ill

There is perhaps no better way to invalidate someone in terms of career, familial status and worthiness of social investment than legitimately calling into question their sanity. This is why people attain stability or recover rarely share.

What is really going on when we invalidate people with mental illness? We are taking away their wholeness as a breathing creature of God who matters just as much as the rest of them. And we are certainly not following any Christian mandate to serve the least of these.

Hear the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:

 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

When we reduce someone to their pathology, in other words, how their illness is showing up in their lives, we are taking away their personhood. And this is un-Christian, as St. Paul teaches us above. When people are struggling with serious mental health issues, they need professional help and medication and it is often, though not always, dangerous to proceed without professional intervention. But if we had mental health education in high schools in this country, people would not judge people with mental illness as harshly. It would be normal to go into treatment. And then people would not deteriorate. Life would be more meaningfully lived.

Every case is different, but I would err on the side of caution regarding going off of medication. I always encourage people to continue to take at least some medication if they have serious mental health issues. If they go on medication, it doesn’t mean they have to stay on the same amount forever. Community and love are needed and not just professional help. Some doctors’ worldviews can hinder a person’s ability to heal. It is imperative to find the right community if one cannot find a supportive doctor.

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