Over 18 percent of adults in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. Current treatments are being questioned because, although mitigating the problem, they are not solving it. Some health professionals are looking to various alternative methods of treatment.
Abraham Verghese, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, has written extensively on the benefits of spirituality in the treatment of mental illness. He defines spirituality as, “a belief and obedience to an all-powerful force usually called God. It involves…a search for the meaning of life and a sense of connectedness to the universe.” He further states, “Spirituality produces in man qualities such as love, honesty, patience, tolerance, compassion, a sense of detachment, faith, and hope.”
I saw this to be true for a friend of mine. One night a young man whom I had known previously, called me and asked to talk at my office. I was aware that he had been treated for mental health issues for many years.
When we arrived at my office, he was clearly agitated, upset and afraid. He told me first off that he was in trouble. He sat down and pulled out a gun and pointed it at me. He proceeded to speak about his irrational fears and total inability to trust anyone. He said his mind seemed uncontrollable.
I listened to him for quite a while, and then talked to him about his spirituality – his connectedness to God. This really resonated with him. I told him that his spirituality produced qualities in him – such as love and faith – that would counteract the misery he faced. I also assured him that his spirituality came from his true nature, as a child of God. At this point, he put the gun back into his pocket.
We stayed for another hour, talking at length about the peace that comes from the recognition of one’s spiritual nature. He seemed relieved. We kept in touch for many years as he grew in his spirituality and peace of mind.
As the medical community, individuals and families continue to seek solutions for mental illness, an approach that goes to the heart of the feelings of disturbance – feeling disconnected and unloved – and overcomes them is a solution that should not be overlooked.