Anxiety, Depression and Medication – Light in the Darkness Part 3

After my message one of the prevailing questions was “Is it Okay to take medication?”

The question is an important one AND a complicated one.  Allow me to lay a couple important facts out on the table:

  • I’m a Pastor, not a Psychiatrist. I’ve done a lot of counseling and have some graduate level education in the practice, but I’m not a doctor or an expert on the brain or a licensed therapist.
  • This article will not be an in depth analysis, but rather some concise guidelines from my experience and research.

So, to medicate or not to medicate?  It seems to me on the surface that there are two general problems in the mental health medication discussion:

  1. Mental Health is treated with an unnecessary and unfair stigma. If someone is diagnosed with cancer and their doctor recommends chemo therapy – no one questions the legitimacy of the need OR the practice.  If you break your arm and need pain medication it is highly unlikely that you will be subjected to scrutiny, or judgement.  Yet, we speak with hushed tones and shame in regards to health problems with the brain.
  2. On the flip side though are those that rush to medicate without appropriate caution or counseling. I’m reminded of a King of Queens episode when Doug and Carrie take Arthur Spooner to a psychiatrist for medication.  They kept pressing the doctor to ‘just pull out that prescription pad’ and give them something to take the edge off.  This approach is equally dangerous as the first.

For Christians there is a foundational lens through which we should view medication for mental health.  We must be careful to see medication as help not hope.  It’s so easy to turn to medication – even therapy as the hope for our suffering, but Jesus and his redeeming love is where our hope must be steadfastly placed.  We know we’ve started seeing medication as hope instead of help when we begin to ignore the spiritual aspects of our battle.  We stop investing in community, instead turning to isolation.  We stop praying for strength and wisdom, instead we google solutions and just try to numb the pain.  We worship and enjoy God when things are good, but rarely when things are bad.

As in all health cases – physical or mental, caution and wisdom are essential in making medical judgements.  I recommend reading Ed Welch’s book Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness.  In it he has a helpful chapter outlining guidelines for medical treatments, particularly antidepressant use.

I recommend talking with a professional counselor AND your doctor.  Sometimes anxiety and depression is caused by physical issues such as chemical imbalances or hormonal issues.  However, other times anxiety or depression might be primarily related to spiritual and emotional problems that we need to fight through.

In short, do I think medication for a mental health reason is Okay? Absolutely yes. As Dr. Ed Welch says in his book, medication for mental health is ultimately a matter of wisdom, not of morality.  They can be helpful, they just shouldn’t be the source of our hope.

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