I have worked in the mental health field in many different capacities for the better part of 13 years now. It is a difficult field to work in for several reasons: most in the field are liberal and anti-Christ; many of the issues are difficult to observe without challenging your faith for at least a time; the use of medication is sometime a crutch that should be unnecessary, etc.
I believe some mental health issues are valid and unavoidable for those dealing with them. Others, however, are the effect of sinful living- using drugs (including alcohol), acting in a way that causes guilt, laziness in dealing with problems and stress, along with many other avoidable issues.
Regarding unavoidable (the "chemical imbalances" if you will): I have seen some people who truly have a definite loss in their sense of reality. Some may be demon possessed, but I would think it is the rare occurrence in the United States. Most are struggling with their lot in life.
I have a close Christian friend who struggles with mental illness. She has had times of psychosis in which she thought she was deaf and only communicate in sign language for a period of nearly a week (on a mental health unit) and another time when she only spoke Spanish (although she does not demonstrate this ability normally, she only took in in college and remembers little for every day use otherwise). She struggles with why this is a part of her life. She is afraid of going to new churches because she fears the rejection she may face due to her mental issues. Another friend,Doug, stated the following in the comments on Rand's post:
Christians who have a natural chemical imbalance, not one caused by drinking/drugs, are nearly unheard of in the church. Not because they don't exist, but because of the stigma attached to mental illness/depression. We sing hymns about "a wretch like me" and then do all we can to never show weakness or fault in front of our brothers and sisters. As if the wretch part was only part of our unsaved past, but now that we are Christians, we would never be wretched, or depressed, or weak, because that would be a bad witness.This is so true. Instead of seeking a perfect-looking church body, we should be willing to assist those with obvious issues and imperfections. Let's be real, we all have things that are shameful or imperfect. Most of us just hide them well.
My friend has asked me about what she is dealing with. I have given her Scripture as encouragement and she has responded by seeking God and seeking to please Him despite the difficulty she has. She quoted me the following yesterday regarding having to deal with mental issues and treatment:
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4.13 NIV)She believes that as she strives to honor and glorify Christ despite her issues, she "participates in the sufferings of Christ." I cannot say that I disagree with her. Her serving Him despite the obstacles and mockery (even by those who are members of "churches") she has the opportunity to gain a small understanding of His trials and suffering and as she points to Christ anyway.
As for the avoidable issues, I see many of them. In fact, most of what I see is a result of goofballs getting drunk and making suicidal statements or people getting overstressed because they live in rebellion to God's Word and His way. They tend to think medication is the way to fix the problem, but it is not.
And the adults who come in with 5 to 10 year-old children because they have behavior problems- these people get little compassion from me in almost every case. Be a parent already! There is this thing called "DISCIPLINE!" It's not necessary to beat a child, but a spanking now and then (when and if necessary) does a world of good. But these people seem to want to drop their kids off at a mental health facility so they do not have to deal with their parental responsibility. They liked creating the child, but they do not like taking care of junior. They are a disgrace. (Sorry, that is something that steams me and we have to deal with it daily- it's like the "parents" come to us and tattle on their children. I have little patience for that.)