Have you ever wondered why there is such an emphasis on mental health in our modern era compared to the past, specifically in the scriptures? Some people might say it’s because we have a higher incidence of mental health issues due to stress, our society, lifestyle, etc. Others could argue that we have more information and ability to diagnose and recognize mental health issues. And I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong; I just personally believe that people have probably always been dealing with mental illness in one form or other. Yes, maybe it wasn’t diagnosed properly. Maybe we have more names and ways to classify and treat it. That all seems plausible (and hopefully true)…but I also like to think that Christ wasn’t just healing the lepers or those with broken limbs or blind eyes while He was on the Earth ministering. It’s my personal belief that He was healing minds as well.
In Matthew 4:23-24 it states,
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like this scripture provides some reassurance that yes, Christ was healing sickness, disease, and physical infirmities BUT He was also concerned with the mental and emotional health of the people as well.
Now, it could be that people in Christ’s time had a high incidence of possession by literal Satanic forces. Maybe it was a thing (and if so, possibly because Christ was literally and physically on the Earth? I don’t know)? But I like to think that some of these “devils” could have been mental health issues like OCD or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Maybe it wasn’t that these people were always literally being controlled by evil spirits but rather by brain disorders and mental illness. I like to think that Christ cares about those maladies in addition to the physical deformities or problems we have.
Matthew 8:16-17 similarly says,
“When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick:
“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”
I think the imagery here is beautiful. With His very word, Christ can overcome and cast out the thoughts, obsessions, and other dark forces at work within us. He can literally take our illnesses away and “bare” them on His own shoulders. Sometimes mental illness can make us feel so isolated and alone, but Christ doesn’t want us to ever feel that way. It is magnificently difficult at times to remain spiritually strong when in the throes of a mental health crisis, and I think that Satan wants us to feel like that because he knows how powerful Christ and His Atonement can be.
Of course, we don’t have Christ personally ministering to us here right now, casting out our mental illnesses with His word. Sometimes we are allowed to suffer with them our whole lives. But we can still access the Atonement, and we can take the steps to get our own help—medical care and priesthood blessings as necessary and appropriate.