When his brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, the Rev. Steven Waterhouse, predictably, sought help from his church.
His church didn't know how to minister to his family's emotional needs. At a time they needed spiritual support, they, instead, experienced awkward avoidance."A lot of clergy don't know how to help. If they knew how to help, they'd help," said the Rev. Waterhouse, pastor of Westcliff Bible Church in Amarillo, Texas.
Others try, but their efforts are misguided. They offer answers but frequently, answers that do not apply to the situation.
"Let's say someone has a stomach ache. Do I give them medicine for poison ivy? No. It doesn't apply," said the Rev. Waterhouse, keynote speaker for Utah's National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Family and Consumer Education Conference held Thursday at the Provo Marriott Hotel.'
Clergy, as the larger population, know little about mental illness. Some believe, mistakenly, it is caused by bad parenting, sin, emotional weakness or even demons, he said.
One California study concluded that churches were least helpful in helping families cope with mental illness.
Christians should not condemn their churches for their weaknesses, he said. They should help strengthen them through secular education and refer them to scriptures that speak to emotional turmoil and the philosophy of suffering.
Neither clergy nor medicine have all the answers, said the Rev. Waterhouse, author of "Strength for His People: A Ministry for Families of the Mentally Ill."
"I believe, in terms of helping people, they need to be integrated," he said.
It's like driving a car, he explained. The car needs fuel to operate. But it also requires tires. There's a difference between what is sufficient and what is necessary, he said.
"In the matter of mental health, both (spiritual and medical help) are necessary. Neither alone is sufficient."
In his brother's case, medicine has helped stabilize his condition so that he can have meaningful study with his chaplain.
Religion can help families in turmoil wrestle with guilt and questions such as "Why do bad things happen?"
"All the medicine in the world will not answer `Why?'
"The very struggle drives us back to God and to depend on him. That is a good thing."