Hand-in-Hand: Mental Health and Spirituality

Researchers say spirituality is important in not only averting mental health issues, but in overcoming them.

Television commercials and magazine ads marketing antidepressants to sufferers with mental issues promise “extraordinary relief and happiness.” However, “in the real world, life is not so simple.” states Christopher Gordon, MD, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard University.

A Huffington Post article, “Spirituality in Mental health Care:  It’s Past Time to Make Room,”  Gordon is quoted as saying, “It is actually a rare case when a person’s problems are satisfactorily resolved by a prescription alone.  Much more commonly, anxiety or depression or other symptoms are part of a larger picture.”

Gordon continues by listing four perspectives to consider when dealing with a person’s problems. First, is the social issue:  What is going on in one’s life?  What is the patient’s relationship with husband, wife, children, business association, among other things?

Then there are psychological issues.  What unfinished business needs to be addressed?  Has something happened in the past that needs to be resolved?  Is the patient feeling guilty or hurt?  Biological or possible chemical imbalance is the third.

The “extremely important” fourth perspective is spirituality, “often neglected in health care.”

“As mental health practitioners, we believe that the spiritual aspects of our clients’ identities should not be neglected by the medical model; rather, a spiritual perspective enriches the medical model,” Gordon concludes.

Dr. Larry Culliford echoes Gordon’s interest in seeing that spirituality is considered in treatment.  In his paper, “Healing from Within: Spirituality and Mental Health,” he notes: “religious and spiritual beliefs and practices help prevent many physical and mental illnesses, reducing both symptom severity and relapse rate, speeding up and enhancing recovery.”  Patients themselves have identified their individual “spiritual needs as an important issue, and spiritual care as contributing to symptom relief and general well-being.”

A woman I know was suffering with depression.  Her thought was so dark that she considered suicide to get rid of the mental pain.

She was sitting in a church service one day and heard a verse from the Bible that cracked  open the door through which a sliver of light shined:  “the Lord …heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my going.” (Ps 40:2).  She went on to say she had felt she was in a horrible pit and that her feet were mired in clay so thick, she couldn’t get out.

She realized it was the Lord that would do the lifting up and setting upon a rock.  She didn’t have to do it by herself.  The rock, she felt, was firm ground and she knew if it was the Lord who put her on solid ground, she would not slip back into the pit.  During her journey to freedom from depression she also found it stabilizing to feel that God has not given her “the spirit of fear, but of a sound mind.”  (II Tim 1:7)

It has been proven by researchers at the University of Missouri that “spirituality improves the health of most people, both of seemingly healthy individuals and those with conditions and illness.”

The team examined results from 5 different faiths and in all of them, “spirituality was associated with better mental health.”

If these are the early fruits of a small but growing field focused on using and studying spirituality in health, what will the harvest possibly bring?

Photo from Google images by catholic-ew.org.uk

Kate is interested in blogging about health, spirituality, Christian Science, science, the importance of prayer and religion.  She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media, legislative and public contact for Christian Science in the state of Maryland.  She is married and has 4 grown and married children and 2 grandchildren.  She and her husband enjoy hiking, especially with Callie, a Blue Heeler, and riding motorcycles.  She also has the best and most courageous cat, Cleo, who is best friends with a beagle named Maple. 

Dr. Larry Culliford:  http://www.miepvideos.org/Healing%20From%20within.pdf

Grace Rattue: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249341.php

Christopher Gordon, MD:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-gordon-md/spirituality-in-mental-health-care_b_1696075.html



  1. Peace of mind is paramount to good mental health. Spirituality gives people a feeling of comfort and protection that cannot come from prescription drugs or other treatments. When we reach a state of being content with who we are and what our role is, all else is resolved.

    • Being happy with oneself overcomes many negative tendencies.
      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Love this blog! Spirituality or your individual connection with God is so important and should not be overlooked in our health care system.

  3. I am glad you enjoyed this blog. It was educational writing it. God is a Christian Scientist’s healthcare system.
    Thank you for the comment, Kathy.