Faith Healing & Mental Health.
What is Faith Healing?
Faith healing is healing achieved by religious prayers and belief rather than by medical treatments. It is rampant and commonly found in almost every continent of earth with the exception of Antarctica (It would be funny though to see penguins worshipping a pebble). The way faith healing is perceived in the western world is myopic in my opinion. I often come across people thinking that faith healing is more prevalent in Africa and the sub-continent rather than the “modernized”, “developed” western world. (Most of the evidence says otherwise.) Faith healing is actually very common in Christian countries and at similar levels as Islam, Hinduism or any other religion.
Faith Healing & Medicine.
Unfortunately, a large number of people die each year because parents or guardians decide to visit a faith healer before they visit a doctor. Diseases that are easily curable end up reaching a stage of no return because the faith healers insist that the person is ill due to black magic or demonic possession, when it is actually the Whooping Cough bacterium that is doing the possession. Faith healing in physical illnesses merely acts as a placebo which works sometimes, rarely but not every time. The case, when it comes mental illnesses though, is an interesting one.
Faith Healing & Mental Health.
I have previously written about the role religion and spirituality can play in healing from mental health. You can go through my previous opinions on the topic here.
Every time I go through some literature on the role religion plays in recovery from mental illnesses, I find out some new perspectives. This time I learned that religion can lead to, or venting of stress.
As Spilka and Werme (1971) put it, religion may serve as a means of expressing emotional disturbance, as a haven from stress, as a source of stress, as a means of social acceptance (and conformity), or as a means of growth and fulfillment. Stommen (1971) similarly perceives that religion “attracts, reduces, increases, and heals mental disorder”
In India, something interesting occurred in a small village. When a psychiatrist visited a small village he saw that many people who had been ostracized on account of “demonic possessions” were actually suffering from schizophrenia. They had taken refuge in homes of faith healers and were tied to poles and chained down. It was unhygienic and inhumane. On seeing this, the doctor decided to do something novel. He didn’t shut down the faith healers or have them arrested; instead he sensitized and informed them about the telltale signs of mental illness. It lead to people approaching faith healers for help and upon showering prayers and blessings on them, the faith healers actually encouraged a visit to a psychiatrist close by. Faith healers and doctors worked in unison in order to help people in recovery from a mental illness.
We can learn from this that rather than carrying out an all out war against faith healing, trying to sensitize and informing them could work as well. It does work in the case of mental illnesses but that is not the case with physical illnesses. So we can conclude that when it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, we need to use approaches that have not been used normally before.
If you wish to read my post on Atheism and Depression, you can do that here,
Rajeev was approached daily by new people. He hadn’t ever met most of them. All of them had new anecdotes and advices. The idea of faith healing had given him some perspective and given him belief, but it did not motivate him to do something new. He was losing hope and becoming pessimistic day by day. It seemed like nothing would work. He had tried everything. “Take a walk in nature and exercise.” It was the most recent advice he had received. It seemed stupid to him initially but Rajeev was really desperate. If nothing else, could exercise help him? Find out tomorrow on knightofsteel.com