By Bob Smietana
A third of Americans—and nearly half of evangelical, fundamentalist, or born-again Christians—believe prayer and Bible study alone can overcome serious mental illness, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research.
The survey also found most Americans (68 percent) would feel welcome in church if they were mentally ill.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said Christians care about those affected by mental illness. He’s glad churches are seen as a welcome place for those with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. But he worries some Christians see mental illness as a character flaw rather than a medical condition.
Christians will go to the doctor if they break their leg, he said. But some may try to pray away serious mental illness.
“They forget that the key part of mental illness is the word ‘illness,’ ” he said. “In a typical evangelical church, half the people believe mental illness can be solved by prayer and Bible study alone.”
The survey also found that 35 percent agree with the statement, “With just Bible study and prayer, ALONE, people with serious mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia could overcome mental illness.”
Responses are split by both faith and age.
Fifty percent of those 18-29 years old say prayer and Bible study could overcome mental illness. That number falls to less than 30 percent for those 55-64.
Evangelical, fundamentalist, or born again Christians (48 percent) agree prayer can overcome mental illness. Only 27 percent of other Americans agree.
- Just over half (51 percent) say someone close to them has experienced mental illness.
- Fifty-four percent of Americans say churches should do more to prevent suicide. That number jumps to 64 percent among evangelical, fundamentalist or born again Christians.
- Americans who never attend church services are the least likely to agree that churches would welcome those with mental illness. Those who attend weekly see churches as welcoming.
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Bob Smietana is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources.