Usually, when people ask what I blog about, I say “mental health and spirituality.” So, after writing a series of posts (here, here, and here) heavy on the “spirituality” half of that duo, I can’t help but wonder: What does spirituality have to do with mental health?
In college psychology classes, I was introduced to the bio-psychosocial model of health, which looks something like this:
In this model, currently the prevailing view in health and mental health professions, wellness and illness are understood to stem from biological, psychological, and social factors — all of which affect one another.
Where does spirituality come in? Typically, it’s considered a synonym of, or even more likely a subcategory of, “social support.” The idea is that spiritual people tend to gather for services, classes, etc. Religious leaders visit the sick and refer people in crisis to professional counselors. Thus, spirituality can be a source of social support.
That’s true. But, for many people — myself included — spirituality affects more than just my social life. In fact, our faith should affect who we are when we’re alone even more than when we’re with other people.
So, while the model above is true, I think an even more true model is the increasingly utilized bio-psychosocial-spiritual model:
How I’m doing spiritually affects how I’m doing physically, mentally, and socially. For instance, prayer, Scripture reading, and general moment-to-moment awareness of God can help me have the peace to fall asleep, focus to concentrate, or courage to enter new social situations.
Likewise, how I’m doing physically, mentally, and socially affects how I’m doing spiritually. If I’m sick, depressed, or lonely, I might not feel like I have the words to pray or the energy to go to church.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is this: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).
He might have invented the bio-psychosocial-spiritual model right then and there! (Sort of kidding.)
Jesus calls his followers to love and service that is not just spiritual but physical, mental, and social. Over the years, health and mental health professionals have gradually come to view wellness as not just physical but mental, social, and spiritual. So, no one in pursuit of Christlikeness can be all about the spirit…and no one in pursuit of wellness can be all about the body. We are to be about the business of heart, soul, strength, and mind.