The Possessed and the Mentally Ill 


When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. (Mark 9:25-27) 

Orthodox theologian Jean-Claude Larchet comments on the notion of the possessed, linking them with those who suffer from mental illness: 


The possessed and insane individual remains a brother who has even a greater need not to be held in contempt or rejected, but on the contrary to be loved and helped since he finds himself in a condition of great suffering. As St John Cassian teaches: 

We shall not only never despise them but we shall even pray ceaselessly for them as for our own members and suffer along with them from the depths of our being and with all our hearts (for when ‘one member suffers all members suffer‘ [1 Corinthians 11:26]). 


The Christian should feel bound up with their destiny, believing that his own spiritual destiny is linked to theirs, as each member of the body is linked to every other member. 

We cannot possibly attain to perfection without these members of ours, just as we read that our forebears were unable to arrive at the fullness of the promise without us. As the Apostle says concerning them: All these who were approved by the testimony of faith did not receive the promises, since God had provided something better for us so that they would not be perfected without us‘  [Hebrews 11:39-40]. 


Thus, far from being excluded from the fraternal community, the possessed person, while submitting to his trials, finds himself integrated with the community through the helping attention that his particular situation of suffering and distress deserve.  (MENTAL DISORDERS AND SPIRITUAL HEALING, pp 60-61) 


Christ came to seek and save the sick and the lost which includes people with mental illnesses. Parishes might consider how they can minister to such folk.