Mental health within the Coptic Church

edited October 2016 in Faith Issues
Hi, I would like to know why people with mental health are frowned upon or treated differently within the Church?
I have noticed that but don't know how to address this topic to some of the people in the congregation.
Please help me to understand why mental health is an embarrassment?
Feel free to be as blunt as possible.


  • edited October 2016
    i have heard this accusation hurled at the church as well. But i've noticed it comes down to a more personal thing within the congregants themselves and only some. I don't believe it's church wide problem on an ecclesiastical level. My church for example has a special needs daycare or camp so to speak every weekend for those kids and youth. The parents drop off their children and the servants would take them out to the mall, play games in the church hall, snacks, movies, etc. The church here has shown a lot of care for them. So whenever i hear this accusation, and I've heard it plenty over the years, I fear it is people just regurgitating a paranoia or narrative that they believe is or should be true because we're "egyptians". We Egyptians have a talent for self deprecation. We ascribe the worst of the worst to our church and intentions even when there's good to be seen.
    There are plenty of people in my church who are on a number of mental health related meds and even a few psychiatrists in the church have given talks to the congregation. One noted example that has been invited often is dr Nabil Ba2i. 

    Now, do i believe there's room for improvement.. certainly. But that won't come about treating the issue as if it's unattended or hasn't been care for because that discourages everyone who has tried making a difference. We need to recognize the good and build on it. I apologize if your experience isn't the same as mine but if you can please tell us specifically what bothers you, perhaps more concrete solutions can be presented..
  • God Bless you and Thank you kindly for replying.
    I have a friend who has a severe mental illness. I have witnessed first hand how this person has been treated differently. Members of this family are also subjected to this mistreatment to the point they no longer attend Mass because of the negative reception they receive. I stand beside my dear friend in Mass and accept this person as they are, without judgement or humiliation of their mental health. To show others that this person is human too and deserves to be treated fairly and with love and acceptance...
    However I too, get looked at in a strange way. People look at me, like I have mental health issues also?.... It hurts my heart  that I am the only close friend (I am in the Coptic Church 4 years)  this person has, even though her family are generation after generation Copts. 
    I pray that these Mental health talks can become more regular here in my Church..

    How do you suggest that I can gently bring this topic into regular discussion at my Church?

  • Let's be blunt. Egyptians are creatures of culture, not rationality. In Egypt, mental health is a sign of weakness or sickness or demon possession. Since society in Egypt has a problem with human rights for healthy people, how much more of an issue will society have for mental illness? For the most part, we as Christians are conditioned to hide what makes us different so we can survive in an Islamic society. There is no real rational reason to hide people who suffer from mental illness. But if we hide ourselves just for our religion, we also want to hide ourselves for anything that makes us different, including mental health illness or benign dermatological and genetic aberrations. 

    Meanwhile, we forget the Lord gave us the example of coming and helping the sick. St Daniel of Shiheet actually spent a year taking care of a leper as penance for his own sins. Imagine if God treated us like we treat people with mental illness. What's worse is that we pray the Lord's prayer dozens of times everyday and ignore the message of love and participation when we shun people who are different. 

    This is a wide spread problem among every people. It is cultural, not religious. It happens here in America but American society has accepted psychology and mental sciences as valid. Other cultures simply see these sciences as an antithesis of mentally ill's laziness and immaturity. Again there is no reason or ratioinality behind this.

    You should definitely bring up this topic at regular discussion. People will obviously stand against you because you will expose a problem in their behavior. But if you feel this is effecting you and your friend, you should address it. First talk to your priest and get his spiritual advise. But if this bothers you as much as it seems, you should do something. It will become a sort of mission to renew people's understanding of the gospel as it relates to people who are different but are perfectly normal. 
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