Mental Health And The Fight For Truth

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, a day set aside to remember and honor the brave men and women who have laid down their lives in service to our nation. We often remember others (veterans) on this day who served but did not lose their lives in combat.

Some prefer to keep the focus on that specific group of people who paid the ultimate price, since we have Veteran’s Day to remember others who served. I understand, and I’m personally sympathetic to that viewpoint. However, this is also “mental health awareness” month, and I can’t help but think of the hundreds of thousands who have “survived” the horrors of war only to return with a shattered mind and spirit.

War veterans suffer from debilitating ailments such as PTSD and severe anxiety. Some never regain a semblance of normal life. A combat veteran of four tours told me he knew more people who took their own lives after they returned than he knew who were killed in combat. Just because someone comes back home doesn’t mean they come home whole.

Of course, veterans are not the only ones who suffer from mental health issues. Those suffering from chronic health conditions also experience compromised mental health issues at a rate much higher than the general population.

“People who reported having arthritis or chronic pain were more likely to have several mental health conditions, including severe anxiety, severe depression, bipolar and PTSD. For example, among people taking the screening for depression, 47% of those with chronic pain screened positive for severe depression compared to 36% of those without chronic pain.”[1]

I am also addressing this issue again because popular pastor and author John McArthur claimed at a recent conference that “PTSD is not real” and in fact denied the existence of mental illness! Perhaps, the most shockingly ignorant thing MacArthur said was that PTSD was just undealt with grief. He then doubleddown on these comments in a sermon at his church.

In another video, which I can’t track down on X, I heard McArthur speak of the mind almost as if it were separate from the body. His conclusion was you can’t treat the mind with “chemicals,” and then he went on to list spiritual virtues which countered the problems of the mind.

John McArthur is not some fringe preacher easy to ignore as extreme. He has influenced millions. My concern is people who listen to him will not get the help they need for the very real mental conditions they are experiencing. My concern is someone just holding on will hear his words and feel completely invalidated and give up. My concern is this toxic dualistic mind/body theology will continue to perpetuate a deadly stigma over mental health struggles in the church.

Some of you likely look up to John McArthur. I am not trying to discredit everything he has taught or done, but his view on mental health must be vehemently opposed by those in a community who suffer disproportionately with mental health conditions.

The church has dangerously lagged behind on mental health for a long time because it has too often bought into the mind/body duality MacArthur endorses. Just when it seems we are making progress, someone comes along who wants to take us backward to harmful scientific and theological viewpoints about mental health. Certainly, no one completely understands all the mysteries of the mind. It may be more than just physical matter, but it is not less than that.

It takes an array of resources to attack mental illnesses. Medicine isn’t always the answer, though it often helps. Practicing spiritual virtues like gratitude definitely improves perspective but doesn’t magically make mental illnesses disappear. Reading the Bible strengthens you, and talking to a counselor could save you. It isn’t one thing over the others but all of the above. Even then, you may be in for a lifelong battle.

Jesus has accomplished the salvation of our minds and bodies. In the resurrection, nothing that troubles us now will trouble us then. In the meantime, we need less prideful proclamations from pulpits and more humble hearts with open hands. We need to destigmatize talking about mental health. We need to tell everyone struggling that you are not alone. Mental illness is not an indictment of your faith any more than a broken leg or an autoimmune disease.

In fact, your faith is likely stronger than you imagine, and that keeps you fighting. Don’t listen to voices like John MacArthur’s, who dismiss so many who are facing their struggles with courage. Listen instead to the voice of truth from others who offer help without judgment and point us to “The Good Shepherd” who calls each of his sheep by name.


[1] https://www.psychiatry.org/news-room/apa-blogs/chronic-pain-and-mental-health-interconnected#:~:text=People%20living%20with%20chronic%20pain,with%20chronic%20pain%20experience%20depression.

David Heflin

David Heflin

Executive Director

David Heflin is the founder and president of Broken and Mended. He is married to Katie and has three kids. David has been a preacher for 17 years and founded Broken and Mended in 2018 after being inspired by his own battle with chronic pain to connect other hurting people to Jesus and each other. David has a B.A. in Bible from Oklahoma Christian University and a Master of Arts in Religion from Azusa Pacific University. He resides in Woodward, OK.

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