“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40
Growing up in a highly controlled religion and household had grave effects on my stability mentally and spiritually. To begin with, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ answer to my depression was that I simply was not relying on “Jehovah” enough. Their answer was that I simply needed to stay busy in “Jehovah’s work” ( knocking on doors, regularly attend JW meetings) to alleviate the symptoms. My parents’ answer was to also redirect me to activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Anything less than this would be perceived by my family and JW community as self-pity which had no place for any “servant of Jehovah.” The most liberating thing about finding Christ was letting his love find me and free me from years of hurt. I carried this hurt much of my life and lived most of my life from an unhealed state. In turn, I hurt others severely and spent many years grieving this fact.
To some degree, the JW leadership was right in that helping others helped me focus on something else other than my sorrows. To another degree, the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were gravely wrong about my depression being resolved with merely “busy work”. Mental illness is not considered a “real” disease among Jehovah’s Witnesses with two very odd exceptions: The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses ( the Leadership) teach that over 2000 years since Christ’s resurrection that God has only selected 144,000 individuals who are anointed. The individuals that make up this number have been adopted by God as sons and daughters. As such they teach that only members of this (literal) number can partake of communion or the Lord’s evening meal. Add to this complicated doctrine their end times doctrines that teach that the death of these ones ( who by their count should be well into their 60’s 70’s or 80’s) will coincide with the coming of Armageddon. Anyone who disagrees with these unbiblical teachings are considered apostates. Why is this important? Take a look at how the Leadership views members who disagree with them:
The Watchtower 7/15 2011 page 19 paragraph 6 says ( the bold is mine) ” Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease. You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings. (1 Tim. 6:3, 4) Jehovah, the Great Physician, tells us to avoid contact with them. We know what he means, but are we determined to heed his warning in all respects?” (www.jwdotorg)
“Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” (2 Tim. 2:19) Those taking the count at the Memorial cannot judge who truly have the heavenly hope. The number of partakers includes those who mistakenly think that they are anointed. Some who at one point started to partake of the emblems later stopped. Others may have mental or emotional problems that lead them to believe that they will rule with Christ in heaven. Therefore, the number of partakers does not accurately indicate the number of anointed ones left on earth.” ( http://www.jwdotorg)
I began questioning the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at a young age. Those like me who question the teachings of the leadership are referred to as mentally diseased or apostates. The pejorative language used to describe those who disagree, often contributed to a deeper depression for me. It affected my relationship with God greatly because I only saw Him through the eyes of the JW leadership. I didn’t know that Jesus Christ came to save me from not only my depression but the legalism that drove it.
I have seen firsthand that mental issues often go unaddressed and many adherents are often left not knowing what to do to comfort a severely depressed person. Notice the chart compiled by a mental health journal that documented the population percentages of Jehovah’s Witnesses in mental wards:
(The following quotes are taken from the British Journal of Psychiatry: the Journal of Mental Science. Published by authority of The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Vol. 126, Ashford, Kent, Headley Brothers LTD, 1975. The author is John Spencer. https://carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses-and-mental-health)
“During the period of 36 months from January 1971 to December 1973 there were 7,546 inpatient admissions to the West Australian Mental Health Service Psychiatric Hospitals. Of these 50 were reported to be active members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement” (p. 557).
“Of the 50 admitted 22 were diagnosed as schizophrenic, 17 as paranoid schizophrenic, 10 as neurotic and one as alcoholic” (p. 557-58)
The JW leadership may never acknowledge that mental and emotional health problems exist among the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from seeking help outside of the group to get help from a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals. Many suffer in silence wandering about and wondering if the dueling thoughts and feelings will be resolved over time or by working harder for this organization.
There would still be many years until I knew the grace of God and let go of the legalistic way of trying to serve God. At 22 years old I felt like a failure and unable to keep up with the demands of the JW organization. After some years in and out of emergency rooms and physician offices, I had an official diagnosis along with the terrible panic attacks I was enduring: I was diagnosed with PTSD (only later to find out that my proper diagnosis was Bipolar 1.) I knew that the God of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was not the same God I came to know throughout my journey. It was then that I started to have an awareness that I would have to begin ridding myself of the cognitive dissonance I felt toward this religion to get on the path to finding the true God.