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From the July 14, 2008 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


FOR THOSE WHO ARE SAID to suffer from the many different disorders categorized as mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they often feel alone, stigmatized and misunderstood. Those who yearn to help loved ones and neighbors with mental disorders can feel helpless as to what they can do for them, and burdened with a heartbreaking responsibility, especially when children or seniors in their care are the ones affected.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, based in Bethesda, Maryland, "The burden of mental illness on health and productivity in the United States and throughout the world has long been underestimated." Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada for ages 15–44, and many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time.

Across this grim scene a bright light waits to shine truly hopeful and transformative rays. And everyone reading this magazine can be a part of the light, whether or not they're directly impacted by mental illness. The world will be a better place for our having given the matter attention and prayer, because the issues surrounding mental illness are so central to the ills facing humanity.

In the 142 years since Mary Baker Eddy discovered it, Christian Science has delivered many people from mental torment of all kinds (see Doug Sytsma's healing of bipolar disorder, discussed in the article beginning on p. 12 of this issue). Christian Science treatment, however, does not begin with conventional methods of addressing mental illness—including prescription medications with their host of side effects, or psychoanalysis—all of which assume that the cause of the trouble exists in the brain, that different parts of the brain control the functions of the human system, and that chemical structures and imbalances must be modified and regulated.

In fact, Christian Science asserts that healing answers lie entirely in the opposite direction. "Every concept which seems to begin with the brain begins falsely," wrote Mrs. Eddy. "Divine Mind is the only cause or Principle of existence. Cause does not exist in matter, in mortal mind, or in physical forms" (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 262). Mind and Principle, as used here, are synonymous with God.

The authority for that statement comes directly from the teaching of Jesus. And two of the Gospels tell in significant detail about a man he healed who had the symptoms of severe mental illness. Luke explains that this man had suffered for a long time, that he was homeless, incoherent, violent, and could not be restrained. Mark indicates that he may have been self-destructive and suicidal. Both accounts tell how Jesus immediately restored the man to "his right mind." No longer a tormented recluse, he became a functioning member of society—and a vocal advocate of Jesus and his healing power (see Mark 5:1–20; Luke 8:26–39).

If Jesus had seen only an emotionally disturbed man who needed to be changed into a sound one, he would not have been able to heal him. As Christian Science explains, Jesus healed by seeing everyone as God created them—perfect as He is, whole, free, always in their right mind. And his example shows us how we as individuals can approach the issue of mental illness and help alleviate it. To Jesus, even the most difficult of human circumstances were not hard and fast realities. They were situations to be spiritually confronted—and overcome. He specifically urged his followers to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8, American Standard Version). And Christian Science teaches that, as we follow Jesus' example, it's possible to maintain spiritual facts in the face of the most discouraging material appearances. This is the Christlike model for attacking any problem through prayer.

The Christ is, quite simply, God's transforming message of hope and healing. It speaks individually to each consciousness, without exception. And when anyone entertains the Christ in his or her thought—that is, willingly seeks to understand God's power to see His creation as He knows it—healing must result, for oneself as well as for others. In this way, we can all help make a tangible difference in the lives of those who struggle to find mental soundness and peace.

On behalf of those who suffer from mental illness, we can refuse to believe that God has destined lives of pain for them. We can refuse to believe that heredity or imbalance or stigma define their identities, and instead advocate for the spiritual wholeness and freedom and value of each individual. We can see more in the way that Jesus saw, and work at adopting the Christ consciousness, in support of these fellow beings and their families.


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