Some religious followers, followers who tend to adopt an ‘extremist’ attitude towards religious teachings, dismiss mental health conditions, regarding them as, not being a ‘real’ illness. They view mental health conditions such as depression and eating disorders, for example, as being ‘self-inflicted’, a ‘lifestyle choice’, as opposed to what they really are, an uncontrollable illness. This ‘extremist’ attitude mirrors the perspective that some followers of religion have towards homosexual people, too, with this perspective seeing them being of the belief that homosexuals are gay because they choose to be, not because they are born that way (as is the truth of the matter.) Why do some followers of religion hold such a controversial belief? One of the main reasons is due to them arguing that, because mental health is simply a ‘choice’, people should just choose not to be affected by it. However, one must ask, if being mentally ill genuinely was a choice (which, it very much isn’t, by the way), why would anyone choose it (they wouldn’t.) Some people still disagree with this though, disputing that it is a choice and people obviously do choose it, hence why mental ill health is so prevalent in society today (again, I just want to reiterate that I do not agree with this, at all.) But there are some people, surprisingly, who are in support of such a radical perspective, with such people sometimes arguing that the mentally ill are selfish, because they are a ‘product of God’s creation’, and they should therefore be grateful for this, and for the miracle that is the life which they have been given.
To combat such prejudice towards mental health within religious communities, leaders of religious organisations should talk more openly about mental health and the difficulties that being affected by poor mental health can cause people to experience. This would help to reduce the stigma that unfortunately still exists surrounding mental health which would, in turn, also help followers of religious organisations feel more able to seek help for their mental health, without fearing being reprimanded as a result of doing so.
To conclude then, whilst negative attitudes towards mental health should not exist, and have no place to do so in modern day society, the fact that they are in existence means that we all have work to do to combat such attitudes, whether that be in religious organisations, educational settings, places of work, or any other environment that should promote a positive attitude towards mental health (that being every environment there has, is, and will ever be.)