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Will Prayer and Bible Study Alone Cure Mental Illness?

According to results of a new LifeWay Research study reported by The Guardian, nearly half of American evangelicals (48 percent) believe people with serious mental disorders can be cured using prayer and bible study alone, rather than with medical intervention. Thirty-five percent of all Americans believe this, as well. Examples of serious mental disorders included major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, commented that churches and leaders need to try harder to address issues of mental illness. “I would say that if your leg is broken, you’re going to believe in prayer, you’re going to believe in scripture, but you’re probably also going to have some medical intervention,” Stetzer said.

“You have to distinguish between character change and mental illness and I think that’s sometimes hard for people to do,” he added.

Stetzer said he hoped to see more Christians embrace a holistic approach to mental illness, embracing the medical intervention alongside with prayer and scripture.

“I think churches have in many ways been on the sidelines of the mental health issue,” Stetzer said. “I hope this conversation really pushes people forward into really engaging and administering. I think this is a place Jesus would be, caring for those, administering to those that are hurting.”

High profile Christian leaders such as megachurch pastor Rick Warren and former president of the SBC Frank Page have gone public with their children’s struggles with mental illness and resulting suicide. “In the Christian community, sometimes—not always—we like things to be in pretty little packages and everybody to be happy,” Page told the Huffington Post in June. “Sometimes we’re not as honest as we ought to be, not as transparent as we should be. Sometimes there are churches that do deal honestly with these things and we need more of that.”