Open letter to Bishop Dag Heward-Mills: Apologise for insulting our pain
Dear Dag Heward-Mills,
I am certain you have been battered enough for your unkindly comments about depression and its causes.
If it is true that you tweeted that “Depression and sadness are a result of demon activity,” then I think that is unfortunate. It is shocking to hear a man of your calibre connect a human condition which afflicts more than 300 million people worldwide to demons.
Bishop, are you suggesting all these people are demon possessed?
As an ardent student of the Bible, I have come across several accounts of faithful servants of God (both men and women) who experienced negative emotions/depression at some point in their lives:
Hannah felt “bitter of soul” – (1 Samuel 1:10)
Prophet Elijah was so grief-stricken that he asked God to ‘take his life’ – (1 Kings 19:4)
Job spoke as a man abandoned by God – (Job 29:2-5
Peter was depressed about denying Jesus and wept bitterly as a result – (Luke 22:62)
Epaphroditus was depressed because his brothers heard he had fallen sick – (Philippians 2:25,26)
Naomi changed her name to Mara because she said God had humiliated and caused her calamity – (Ruth 1:20,21)
Bishop, if your thoughts on depression were true, then the abovementioned were suffering also as a result of demon activity. But we all know that’s not the case.
My Bible also tells me those who are sick should seek a physician, in this case, those physicians will be Mental Health professionals. So why are you indirectly couraging people to go to the Church for healing from mental illness instead of to the Hospital?
Again, the tasks Christians to be each other’s keeper, to encourage and “speak consolingly to those who are depressed”, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:11,14. It further tasks believers to comfort the depressed because God cares about “the lowly” and “those being crushed” – Isaiah 57:15.
How comforting, then, are your words, Sir? If I am suffering because of demon activity, is it not better to commit suicide? I will chose this option because this depression has been in my skin for far too long and I can’t bear the shame of my friends knowing it is as a result of demon activity. I can’t go into the public because people will point at the girl suffering from demon activity. Is that what you want?
Bishop, how are you uplifting our spirits with your words?
Do you realise how you are reinforcing certain toxic narratives about mental illnesses, the very reasons for which many have chosen to hide and suffer in silence till they can’t bear it anymore and then, commit suicide?
Do you realise why people don’t want to accept they are mentally ill, let alone seek proper treatment?
Do you realise what impact your utterance is/will have on sufferers, some of whom can use it as a basis to stop taking their medications or whatever treatment has been designed for their recovery? After all, how will antidepressants and other available therapies work on demons?
As Rusian scholar Andrei Lankov puts is: “To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.” Indeed, to view the suffering of depressed souls the way you do and to propagate it in the manner you are reported to have done is an almost unbearable form of violence.
In my humble opinion, it is time for you to apologise and withdraw the comments if you tweeted it and if you didn’t, kindly say so. Dear lives depend on this.
Most importantly, Depression and sadness and all forms of mental illnesses have nothing to do with demons or their activities.
Dorcas Efe Mensah