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Dr. Patrick Johnston and His Dangerous Advice to Depressives

sin can make you sick

Dr. Patrick Johnston is a former Ohio family practice physician, the founder of the Association of Pro-life Physicians, and the former director of Personhood Ohio (link no longer active). He and his ex-wife Elizabeth have ten 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 ectopic pregnancies. In a December 2015 Personhood Ohio article, Johnston stated (link no longer active):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 [sic] not hopeless.

Johnston also wrote an article for his blog titled Saving Ectopically Implanted Boys and Girls. Yes, really.

Johnston and Personhood Ohio tried for years to amend Ohio’s Constitution. If successful, Article 1, Section 16 would have been amended to say (link no longer active):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 and its subsequent iterations from being enacted.

In an undated article titled Curing the Miseries of the Mind: Anxiety and Depression (link no longer active), Johnston and his now ex-wife Elizabeth offer up advice to those who suffer from mental health 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 e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. 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 from 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 show similar “Biblical” cures for depression.

The Johnstons then give 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 cause) of anxiety and depression. However, make no mistake about it, the Johnstons believe that the Christian God and the Bible are 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 from 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.


We know the Johnstons personally. We attended church with them in 2004-2005 at Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio. Faith Bible is a family-centric, Reformed Baptist congregation.

Elizabeth filed for divorce in 2020, saying “he [Patrick] has been repeatedly unfaithful to me, as well as psychologically and emotionally abusive.”

Elizabeth stated at the time:

After repeatedly taking him back, covering for him, preserving his reputation, and forgiving him of adultery, pornography and sexual immorality, which began 16 years ago, I have been forced to come to the harsh realization that I’ve done all I can and am entrusting Him to my Savior! I don’t share this to harm or humiliate, but to help explain why I, a Christian woman who hates divorce, have decided to separate and pursue a divorce.

The deception and aggression has recently gotten very unhealthy, so I am being forced for the sake of my children to make the hardest decision of my life. To stay at this point would be more harmful to my children than to separate. I will be blasted for not staying married. Don’t listen to the critics, and just pray for us instead.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    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.

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    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.

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    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….

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    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.)

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    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.

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    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???

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    Dr. Johnston was my mom’s primary care doctor when she lived in Frazeysburg. She went two months without medication for depression and high blood pressure. His office staff refused to give her an appointment (saying she had an outstanding bill for $25. At the time she had insurance without a co-pay.) and he refused to return her call. When she saw him in public and told him her complaint, he told her perhaps she needed to look for another doctor! It’s next to impossible to get a PCP that accepts new patients with Medicare in Muskingum County. His wife is The Activist Mommy and has her own brand of horror she preaches.

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    Dr Nutter and his crazy wife Lizzie have now moved to Charlotte, NC, where the missus pickets Planned Parenthood and infiltrates gay gatherings…Johnston now goes by Patrick Johnston and is in private practice (with no office). Lizzie now spends her days with memes, bonkers videos and begging people for money on Facebook. Their 19 year old daughter Anna is following in Mommie Dearest’ footsteps.

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    Emily A Mason Ferguson

    Dr Nutter, ran just days before my mother’s surgery. He had misdiagnosed her and she is now waiting to die of stage 4 cancer. I hope you and your whole family live in fear of the revenge of all the people you have financially raped spiritually poisoned and physically damaged, you are not a doctor and I think if someone would look into your so called degrees they would find that out and a Christian, you are no more like Christ that my turtle.
    You just have to step on the backs of those less fortunate to make yourself feel good and these bologna books and movies you write my little brother could do better, let out those fantasies Patrick. It is a shame your seed has been spread 10 times on this earth but perhaps they will see for themselves the sick freak dad they have and make a difference in the world for good not evil like you. I want to see you pay for all you have done and I am doing my best legally to see that happen. Running again wont get you out of this one Patrick.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    This conservative doctor reminds me of that other nutter, John Piper. Can you imagine growing up in his household ? Reading about the lady’s comment above regarding her mother, I was thinking that this Johnston should be sued, and his licence yanked ! I see here you will be suing him–good for you ! I wish you success with that case.

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    Pro life, ten kids, homeschooling, all words and phrases that fill me with apprehension as to what is coming.

    And I wasn’t wrong.

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    I still can’t figure out a valid reason these folks care about how many kids women have. The reasons I can think of are all bad:
    Promoting a patriarchal system and controlling women, keeping an oppressed state.
    Keeping a larger number of people poor to fill low-paying job functions (and tied in with that is the movement to restrict immigration of non-white people).
    White supremacy – demographics in the US are changing, and if rates continue, white people will be a minority group in a few decades. Maybe some people are trying to slow that trend?

    As for mental health, blaming people for their mental health is harmful.

    Those poor children – it’s hard to get out of that culture.

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    While most comments are about this wackadoodle doc, what makes me the most sad about this is the miasma of social conservatism oozing up from the Bible belt and taking over Ohio. Ohio was formerly a bellwether, but is now firmly in the red state column. Unfortunately, abortion restrictions are coming for most of the United States, and Dr. Johnston and his ilk are on the vanguard of the change. It would have been to our advantage if abortion had been made legal legislatively, rather than by SCOTUS fiat. The net result has been a tenacious onslaught to get social conservative judges. Along with the untimely death of Ruth Ginsburg and the abuses of Moscow Mitch, I suspect I’ll never see a liberal majority SCOTUS in my lifetime, and that has a lot more implications than abortion. At some point you’ll see the church state wall coming down block by block.

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    A Christian hypocrite giving mental health advice? How unusual. Anyway, I had to step away from Christianity to deal with my eating disorder. Because prayer was not the answer. Improved mental functioning, medications and other things made a difference. I did get counseling off and on too. But prayer? Did not actually help.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I hope I don’t sound like I’m self-promoting when I say that reading this article reminded me of the experience I recounted in my guest post, “The Prayer Circle.” Even though I continued to believe for some time after that incident, I knew, deep down, that praying–in English or “tongues” or any other code–or reading the Bible would not have helped the young woman I mentioned. Or me.

  17. Avatar

    Getting secular therapy exposes a person to a worldview outside Christianity and is therefore a threat to the status quo. These Christian leaders don’t care whether anyone gets better using prayer and Christian counseling, they just want them going to someone who is in the fold and will keep troubled “sheep” from wandering away.

  18. Avatar

    Here is a little message for Dr. Dildo and his apathetic and sadly mistreated wife (ex-wife)-He needs his license revoked for practicing medicine! The hogwash “advice” he gives for “curing’ depression, which is often caused by a chemical imbalance-among other things, is nothing short of sorcery not based in science. Doctors=science; not fairy tales.

    Prayer never cured anything. EVER. As a child, raised in a few different belief systems, (confusing for a kid) and with abusive parents, I can attest to the inability of prayer saving anyone or curing anything. I would pray with all I had that my parents would love me and for this big-man-in-the-sky to protect me from various things, people at various times and I got nothing. As an adult, I drug around all that Christian shame of being born into sin by a god who must have hated me and wanted to punish me for breathing. That is, until I realized it was all made-up bullshit-there was no god trying to punish me for eternity just for being born-and I FINALLY have been able to drop the shame and start healing from all my traumas. I no longer carry the shame that was never mine to begin with and I am in therapy to overcome PTSD, cope with my depression and anxiety and live my life the way I see fit. None of this was by any means “cured” with prayer. In fact, once I learned to let go of this nonsense called “faith”, I was finally able to heal (currently healing), with the help of trained professionals.

    It is people like this clown that perpetuate hate, authoritarianism, sexism, bigotry, racism, abuse of all kinds and damage young minds. He can kiss my big, fat ass and I hope he gets his license revoked for malpractice.

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Bruce Gerencser