According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, nearly 1 in 4 American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. As biblical counselors, it’s not uncommon for us to meet with men, women, and children who have sought out psychiatric care for the disruptive problems they’re experiencing. Personally, 80% of the women I’ve met with for counseling during the past year have been labeled with (and given prescriptions for) more than one disorder diagnosis. Unfortunately, this trend may not decrease anytime soon. A study recently conducted by a psychiatric research team in the UK revealed that nearly one-third of the recovered COVID-19 patients they observed were diagnosed with a mental or neurological disorder within six months of their infection.
My First-Hand Experience
And yet, these heartbreaking realities aren’t the main reason I wrote Help! I’ve Been Diagnosed with a Mental Disorder. As is the approach of many of the LifeLine Mini-books, this resource is the fruit of my own lived experiences. I know first-hand what it’s like to be labeled with a mental disorder. I’ve been through the psychiatric hospitalization process on two different occasions—once as an unbeliever, and again as a disciple of Christ; once as a teenager, and again as an adult; once as a single woman, and again as a married woman; once as a child, and again as a mother of three.
In short, I wrote this mini-book for everyday people like myself—for Christians who have been given a label and wondered how the good news of Christ Jesus intersects with the apparent bad news delivered to them by a psychiatrist. More than that, I’ve also written this resource for people like Robbie, a vagabond whose path I briefly crossed during my latter hospital stay. One Sunday morning after a vaguely-religious service, he shuffled toward the on-call chaplain and asked, “Can you get me a Bible, a Quran, a Book of Mormon, and any Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets you’ve got in this place?”
Like so many who feel trapped by their respective afflictions and the stigmatizing labels that accompany them, Robbie was desperate for life change. Based on his question, we might surmise that he was searching for realistic hope and meaningful help but didn’t know where on earth (or in heaven) to find it.
Having battled against depression for more than 15 years at that point in time, I could relate to Robbie’s distress. I also felt desperate for change and yet powerless to bring it about. And while I do not know what ultimately came of Robbie’s search for hope and help, I do know that my God, in His steadfast love, did meet me in the hospital (Ps. 59:9-10). There, He turned the bitter diagnosis I received that week into a sweet catalyst for transformative spiritual growth. What I thought would be the end of me God used to bring new change in me. And praise the Lord, progress did happen—over time and by degrees as I repented of my “fix it” mentality and embraced God’s higher purposes for my life instead.
There Is Comfort in Christ
So how would you minister Christ’s comfort and counsel to someone who has recently been labeled with a mental disorder? What words of realistic hope and meaningful help do the Scriptures have to offer to someone who is plodding through a post-diagnosis journey? And when it seems like someone’s entire world is being redefined by a psychiatric label, which gospel truths serve to stabilize their heart amid confusion? In this mini-book, I recommend biblical answers to these questions by stewarding the comforts I received from God in the days and weeks immediately after my hospitalization (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
It ought to be said that I’m extremely grateful to God for the current conversations taking place surrounding this admittedly nuanced topic. I know the term “mental disorder” comes with a certain amount of social, cultural, and theological baggage. But to be clear, this mini-book doesn’t attempt to enter into the ongoing academic dialogs about terminology, diagnostic validity, or treatment efficacy (though those discussions are needed and important). Rather, it attempts to enter into the sufferer’s acute distress as he or she grapples with what a disorder diagnosis does—and doesn’t—mean for his or her life according to the great and many promises of God.
As we think about holistic post-diagnosis care in this mini-book, my ultimate goal is to invite readers to come to Christ’s counseling table. I do this because—in contrast with psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—the Bible is the only “reference book” that will tell us about our whole selves while offering the promise of wholeness at the very same time. My prayer is that the Lord would use this resource as a primer for future Christ-centered counseling conversations—ones that patiently help the reader connect the terrible truths of their lived experiences with the wonderful facts of gospel realities.
Although the problems suffered by those labeled with a mental disorder vary on an individual basis, the Scriptures offer a foundational perspective from which to process these kinds of challenges. By guiding readers to stabilizing biblical truths about their personhood, purpose in life, and potential for making progress post-diagnosis, I encourage them to consider what’s most true about their story and to embrace God’s redemptive perspective as their own. Realistic hope and meaningful help are always available through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, no matter where someone might land on the disorder spectrum. But what exactly is the nature of this hope, and what specifically are the methods of His help?
“Come,” says our Wonderful Counselor, “and you will see” (Isa. 9:6, John 1:39).
*This post was first published by the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
 “Statistics Related to Mental Health Disorders,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, accessed April 10, 2020, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-disorder-statistics.
 “1 in 3 COVID Survivors are Diagnosed with Mental Health Conditions” https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2021/04/07/covid-19-mental-health
 This man’s name has been changed for privacy purposes.