The death by suicide of beloved comedian Robin Williams shocked the world. That a man who spent his career making others laugh would fall victim to the demons of depression and addiction is an ironic tragedy. One can’t help but think, how could a man with access to every resource not get the help he needed?
While there is a place for medication and psychiatric assistance to combat suicide, depression, and addiction, one of the best ways to find happiness and improved mental health is simple -- go to church.
This fact is contrary to the prevailing misconception of secular culture that being religious is a form of mental illness and that it is more healthy to be a doubting, free thinking liberal. Professor Rodney Stark’s excellent book, America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists has a chapter that addresses mental health. Here is some of what he shares:
- Common misconceptions about religion being a form of neurosis can be traced back to Sigmund Freud, Albert Ellis, and Gordon Allport, influential psychologists who were biased against religion without backing up their opinion with unbiased research. Allport’s commonly accepted view was that less religious people were mature and intelligent, while religious people were childish, authoritarian, and irrational and suffering from a form of mental illness.
- Stark’s review of actual effects of religion on mental health shows that the opposite is true, supported by a body of research where the summary volume runs to 1,192 pages!
- Stark notes that “religiousness provides substantial protections against mental illness.”
- Among people who attend church weekly, 40% are very happy. For those that never attend church, 25% are very happy. Meanwhile 9% of those who attend church weekly are not too happy and 18% of those who never attend church are not too happy. Clearly being happy and going to church go hand it hand.
- People who are less religious “tend to score high on measures of depression.” People that are more religious “tend to score low on the measures of depression."
- With high statistical significance, “those being treated for mental heath problems were less religious than the normal population.”
- “The higher the church membership rate of a standard metropolitan statistical area, the lower its suicide rate.”
Though raised by an Episcopalian father and Christian Scientist mother, Robin Williams was not a practicing Christian and his beliefs leaned towards atheism. We know that religion can give people hope and purpose and a reason to live on regardless of adversity (think Corrie ten Boom). It is sad that faith was not present in Mr. William’s life to provide him the benefits to mental health that are a bonus to a religious life.
Her is a related post about Stark's book and how religion results in less crime.
If you liked this post and what to encourage other readers, be sure to share it by selecting one of the share buttons below.
If you would like to get a notice of future posts, choose the Follow option at the bottom of this blog.