Dr. Patrick Johnston and His Dangerous Advice to Depressives

sin can make you sick

Dr. Patrick Johnston is an Ohio family practice physician, founder of the Association of Pro-life Physicians, and the director of Personhood Ohio. (link no longer active) He and his wife have nine children, all of whom are homeschooled. Several years ago, Johnston wrote a rebuttal to a post that I published about my views on abortion and personhood laws. Johnston believes there are no justifiable reasons for women to have abortions. Rape? Nope. Incest? Nope. Life of the mother? Nope or maybe. Severe physical malformation? Nope. Ectopic(tubal) pregnancy? Nope Huh? That’s right, Johnston does not think women should have access to abortion services if they have an ectopic pregnancy. In a December 2015 Personhood Ohio article, Johnston stated: (link no longer active)

Many sincere advocates of life fall prey to the argument that abortion is occasionally necessary to save the life of the mother. An example of an ectopic pregnancy is often given. However, a cursory investigation of the evidence reveals that many babies have survived ectopic pregnancies. There are life-saving alternatives to treat the mother and her ectopically-implanted baby. Successful transplantation of the embryo from the Fallopian tube to the uterus has been reported in the medical literature as far back as 1917. We do not have to kill these babies to save the mother. Their cases is not hopeless.

Johnston also wrote an article for his blog titled Saving Ectopically Implanted Boys and Girls. You can read it here.(link no longer active)

Johnston and Personhood Ohio have tried for several years to amend Ohio’s Constitution. If successful, Article 1, Section 16 will be amended to say: (link no longer active)

(A) The words “person” in Article 1, Section 16, and “men” in Article 1, Section 1, apply to every human being at every stage of the biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization.

(B) Nothing in this Section shall affect genuine contraception that acts solely by preventing the creation of a new human being; or human “eggs” or oocytes prior to the beginning of the life of a new human being; or reproductive technology or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures that respect the right to life of newly created human beings.

So far, right-thinking citizens and politicians have kept the amendment initiative from being enacted. (For an in-depth look at how Johnston views government, please see the slides for his seminar titled How Christians Should Resist Tyranny.) If you want to plumb the depths of Johnston’s right-wing, Fundamentalist extremism, I encourage you to read his blog. (link no longer active)

In an undated article titled Curing the Miseries of the Mind: Anxiety and Depression, (link no longer active) Johnston and his wife Elizabeth offer up advice to those who suffering from mental problems. According to the Johnstons, the cure for depression and anxiety is found in the Bible:

If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety, I want to let you know that there is light at the end of your dark tunnel – and it’s not found in a pill! The God who created you loves you, and does not want you to be miserable. I believe that God’s Word – the Holy Bible – holds the key that, if not cures, greatly alleviates psychological symptoms.

Ah yes, the time-tested Fundamentalist maxim: the B-i-b-l-e is the cure for everything. Johnston admits that he does “prescribe a lot of medication for anxiety and depression because they help alleviate symptoms,” but he wants people to know that many physical and mental ailments have “spiritual roots.”  The Johnstons list seven reasons people suffer with anxiety and depression:

  • Genetic and social influences (Yea! Dr. Johnston makes an appeal to science.)
  • So that the sufferers faith will be strengthened
  • Punishment for sin
  • Unforgiveness
  • Ingratitude
  • Unbelief
  • Excessive worry
bible the cure for depression

This graphic is not Dr. Johnston’s, but it does how similar “Biblical” cures for depression.

The Johnstons then gives their Jesus-infused prescription for overcoming depression. Are you ready to be delivered, fellow depressives? All right, let’s all get h-a-p-p-y! The Johnstons believe that the following tips will help people “overcome the daily onslaught of anxiety and depression”:

  • Write out encouraging Bible verses, quotes, or thoughts, and tape them up at your house or work, or carry them in your purse or wallet. Refer to them and memorize them whenever you are struggling with unhealthy thoughts.
  • Turn on uplifting Christian music. Sing and meditate on the principles of God’s Word. Praise and worship the Lord. Try dancing to praise music! By all means, turn OFF any music or television that saddens you or causes you to focus on your troubles.
  • Make a list of ten things to think about when you are tempted to think things you shouldn’t. Make your list very practical. For instance: “What will I buy at the store?”, “Where will we go on our next vacation?”, “What will I say to my friend/neighbor/family member next time we speak?”, etc. Always have this list on hand to refer to when tempted to be anxious, depressed, or angry.
  • Occupy yourself with a big project or many projects that direct your mind off of yourself and onto others. There is no end to the number of nursing home residents, hospitalized patients, struggling families, volunteer organizations, and ministries who need a letter or a helping hand. Do not sit around and wait for your problems to disappear. Busy yourself with projects and invest your time in caring for others.
  • Always fight the tendency to pity yourself. You will find one hundred reasons to believe that self-pity will make you feel better but it never solves anything. When tempted to pity yourself, think of others you know who are in much worse circumstances (i.e. the paralyzed teenager, the young husband who just lost his wife, Christians who are persecuted for their faith in China, Cuba, or Indonesia, etc.). Make a list of such people and remind yourself of how blessed you are. Stop and take a moment to pray for those who are less fortunate than yourself.
  • Journal!! Write out your thoughts, regardless of how troubling or embarrassing they may be. Often, when you see on paper what is going on in your head, you will be surprised by how manageable your problem is through changing your way of thinking!
  • A few good Scriptures on topics of importance are listed below for your edification. Suffering: 1 Pet. 4:12-16, Rom. 8:17-18, 2 Cor. 4:17, James 1:2-4  Forgiveness/Mercy: Matt. 6:14-15, Matt. 18:21-22, Heb. 8:12, Prov. 11:19, James 5:9 Thankfulness: Phil. 4:11, Heb. 13:5, Rom. 1:21 Fear/Worry/Doubt: Matt. 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, 2 Tim. 1:7, I Cor. 10:13

Certainly some of the advice offered by the Johnstons can often help alleviate the effects (not the case) of anxiety and depression. However, make no mistake about it, the Johnstons believe that the Christian God and the Bible is the CURE for those suffering from mental difficulties. I suspect that Dr.Johnston tells depressives who are not Christians that Jesus can and will cure what ails them. For those who are Christians, Johnston tells them to put mind over matter and remember that there are always people worse off than you. Trust Jesus and all will be well.

If Johnston is prescribing God and the Bible as a cure for anxiety and depression then he is committing medical malpractice. His patients should expect treatment by a doctor thoroughly grounded in the scientific method. Using the tips mentioned above to “cure” depression might work for a time, but true healing comes through counseling, behavior, modification, and, if warranted, psychotropic drugs. As someone who has suffered with depression for most of my adult life — both as a Christian pastor and as an atheist — I know that the sort of Christian voodoo offered by Johnston does not cure depression. If Johnston objects to what I have said here, he is free to present empirical data that suggests otherwise. Until then, Dr. Johnston’s tips for curing anxiety and depression should be viewed in the same light as the chants and gimmickry of witch doctors.

Note

Totally unrelated to the subject of this post, while perusing Johnston’s blog I came across a post he wrote titled Proofs for the Existence of God — Even Atheists Presuppose God’s Existence (*sigh*).(link no longer active) If you have a few minutes to waste and need a hearty laugh, please read Johnston’s post. He concludes the post with this:

In response to this tract, many-an-atheist will doubtlessly conjure up another logical argument to refute mine. A very logical argument indeed. And what will be assumed in their counter-argument? The firm foundation of logic. What is assumed in this assumption? The Christian God, without which logic cannot be universal and unchanging, and the free will of man to reject or accept your persuasion. Objective truth will be assumed in the atheist’s rebuttal.

Your naturalism, Mr. Atheist, cannot account for the laws of logic any more than it can account for objective truth, and your empiricism could never know of the laws of logic even if they were real in spite of naturalism’s failure to account for them. In effect, your very counter-argument to rebut me assumes the Christian God against whom you so diligently and foolishly fight!

You’re too shallow, Mr. Atheist. That’s why you can’t see the truth of God in what you so hastily, and without basis, assume in your very own argument against the Christian God! You’re like the fellow tormented by thirst who sees his reflection in the pool and admires his cosmetic veneer rather than looks beyond the mirror to the life-giving liquid. Jesus is the living water which if who man who thirsts will drink freely as he may, he shall have rivers of living water flow from his own bosom! Be silent, parched mouth, long enough to see the ripples in the water from the pounding of the arguments you breathe forth. Hear what you are saying, then hear what He says, for without Him your argument is impossible. Then drink and never thirst again!

Be converted, oh atheist reader, to ALL the truth, beyond that which you arbitrarily assume, to all the truth of God. You are a fallen man with a depraved intellect whom Christ shed His blood on the cross to redeem, both spiritually and intellectually. Believe in Him, and be forgiven. Forsake Him to persist in your stubbornness and sin, and you will be damned.

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8 Comments

  1. Melissa Montana

    I have tried all of the above, and except for journaling, it doesn’t work. Religion is a great way to push yourself into further denial about your real problems, and therefore delay getting treatment that actually may work.

    Reply
  2. celcus

    I suspect the good doctor thrives on ministering aka lording over the pain and misery of his “patients”. I’ve seen far too many “good christians” who find the suffering of other a balm to their own or a sign of their own “moral” superiority, often a bit of both. My own journey involved a slightly less disingenuous doctor who brought up Job. Job? You mean the guy who’s life God ruined and family he killed over a bar bet with Satan? Yeah, that one. Comforting…no, a sign it was time to move on.

    Reply
  3. Melody

    Lol at the “sure they are, otherwise you wouldn’t have suggested them.”

    My mum has bipolar disorder and I once read this bit where that was called just rebellion and a manic state called a sign of demon possesion. Suffice it to say I got pretty angry at the sheer nonsense of that.

    If you’re depressed, putting on happy Christian music, and just jumping straight into denial, isn’t going to help….

    Reply
  4. Neil

    Thanks, Bruce. I Just sampled this smug, self-righteous bigot’s blog. Please warn folks not to do it on a full stomach.

    Reply
  5. Brian

    Dr. Bully Smile M.D. is as ignorant as they come. Bullies use all kinds of baits to get their victims in a corner where they can be harmed without worrying about being discovered. Dr. Bully here has a special God knowledge about how he owns it all and will do what he wants with all of us in Jesus’ name, amen. Fuck you, Dr! The Christian allopathy you prescribe might be temporary relief for some but it does not cure anything.
    I used Jesus for a lifetime-while (fundagelical injections) and I used depression meds for awhile too. What was most helpful to me was being able to choose, you bully shit who wants no choice for anyone! Fuck you.
    (For those of you out there who suffer depression, there is help…choose for yourself what works for you.)

    Reply
  6. Connie

    In reading Dr Johnston’s ideas of how to combat depression it feels as if he read some articles on coping skills and then slammed them into his preconceived ideas of faith. For example, my therapist recommended journaling for those times when I needed to let go some emotion. Some days it helped, others I needed to practice distraction and being gentle with myself by eliminating negative self talk and judgemental stances. No shoulding on myself!!!

    The rest of his suggestions are flim flam junk, ensuring the patient will run back to Dr Johnston to be cured. Or not. Perhaps people can use science (gasp) to manage their symptoms…

    Depression is a side symptom of hypothyroidism – a condition I’ve lived with all my life. Getting “happy” isn’t an option, not when my body’s chemistry is a challenge to balance. I’ve been on an antidepressant twice in my life and both times my body liked them until it didn’t. Then the docs added extra medications and increased dosages until I was a total mess.

    When I eventually lost my job (husband had cancer and wasn’t dying fast enough) I lost my health insurance so cold turkey it was for me. I don’t recommend it. Ever.

    Many docs have tried to get me to go the pill route again. I tell them my story and current situation (until two years ago I was homeless) with the result that I now have a service dog who is my antidepressant. Honestly, I’m Medicaid. I won’t start something that can be taken away at the whim of a politician – especially since the theocrats seem to be running the show.

    Full disclosure – both my dogs are rescues and I didn’t intend to get two. A year ago I adopted Bijou to be my service dog – it’s taken me this long to get her over the abuse she’d endured. We are almost ready to start formal training – we are both so excited. 🙂 My other dog, Michelangelo, I adopted three years ago thinking I could train him up but he’s made it very clear he’s a nudist and will not abide by the no talking to anyone when in gear rule. Seriously, I had people telling me I was abusing my dog because he would lay down at the very end of his leash with his body pointed away from me when in harness. It was a lot like watching a three year old boy wearing his church going clothes on a hot summer day. Nope, he’s the cuddler while Bijou hides in her crate. I could cheerfully hurt her previous peoples – I’m her third (that I know of) person and forever home.

    Both are amazing at helping me manage my Mental Health and Fibro issues. It’s hard to hold onto past hurts when Mikey is looking at you with a smile in his eyes and a look on his face saying Today is a new day!!! What shall we do? Well, we take over the world Mikey, we take over the world. 😀 I have Bijou (Hungarian bred Belgian Malinois) by my side. No one will mess with us.

    Reply
  7. Allan G

    He missed the one big “cure” that should be the Christisn’s silver bullet! Pray to God to cure you…now…completely! He is all powerful! He created disease, so he can take it away!!!

    A big reason for me leaving Christianity was finally realizing that if God can’t answer prayer in this way he is either a) not powerful at all; b) unloving; or c) nonexistent.

    I choose c), but even if a) or b) were true, why would anyone want to worship and depend on him???

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Dr. Patrick Johnston’s Dangerous Advice to Depressives – FairAndUNbalanced.com

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