In Spring 2022, I wrote an article about the sudden onset of uncontrollable tics in teens who had watched TikTok videos of people with Tourette’s syndrome. My article looked at why The Atlantic’s “The Twitching Generation” was one of the most popular posts on bioethics.com. One year later, Azeen Ghorayshi reports in The New York Times that the TikTok tics have largely disappeared. Now doctors are trying to understand why some teens were susceptible to tics in the first place.
In this short article I will present a way of thinking that might help us avoid such temptations and discover ways in which the church and the mental health professions can come together with mutual understanding and shared healing practices.
For a field that previously prioritized perception and mere verbal exchange, this increasing focus on the lived body is promising. But, for the professional Christian counselor, as well as pastoral counselors, the importance of embodiment in care and counseling should also be fundamentally informed by biblical and theological narratives—not just the scientific or therapeutic.
“Disability” is a word tossed about easily in our world. Yet the sheer spectrum of disabilities makes the term ambiguous and even artificial. It is helpful to conceive of disability as a term that points to a limitation due to an involuntary bodily impairment, social role expectation, or external physical/social obstruction impacting participation in communal life. Beyond this definition, the church is faced with a deeper challenge to define disability while wrestling with various theological implications of over-simplifying the term.
At bioethics.com, I curate and post articles from the media that deal with bioethics issues. A typical post at bioethics.com is a title, link, and short blurb from an article in the mainstream media, such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters, or the Associated Press. Over the past year, one bioethics.com post received more views in a single day than any other post, and it won by a large margin: “The Twitching Generation” by Helen Lewis at The Atlantic (See post here). I posted “The Twitching Generation” on Monday February 28, 2022. On Saturday alone it received 2,512 views, and as of April 2022, it had 5,338 views. Those numbers are just for the bioethics.com post which serves as a thoroughfare to the actual article. The topic is apparently of interest to our bioethics readers, so let’s look at what we can learn from Helen Lewis’s article about teens and technology.
Ministry leaders who foster vital congregational community can constructively address the adverse trends in the growing national crisis regarding the upturn in mental illness. In the previous piece on ministry along the mental health continuum, the charge to ministry leaders was to be part of the solution: faith communities serve a stabilizing function that increase disease resistance by reversing isolation. Here, that challenge will be expanded. Ministry leaders can indeed be part of a larger social movement that promotes mental health and fulfills our Gospel calling. Awareness of trends in mental health care can assist clergy to customize and deepen the support offered to struggling parishioners.
Is the clamor regarding an uptick in untreated mental health cases an absurd prophecy or another conspiracy theory? The data would suggest otherwise. There is reputable evidence that increasing numbers of people are inwardly perturbed and exhibit symptoms such as sleep disturbance, suicidal ideation, and addictive behaviors. The COVID-19 pandemic itself brought evidence-based epidemiology—the data-driven study of patterns in health and disease—into the public spotlight.
Culture is so easily influenced by the entertainment industry. This is why I am sounding an alarm about a very dangerous message in a film released earlier this summer. It’s simply titled Me Before You.
What are we to make of the claims that a person’s gender identity conflicts with his or her body? Should someone undergo gender-reassignment surgery to match one’s sense of identity, or should it be the other way around? Answers to such questions will depend fundamentally on our understanding of what it means to be a human being, an understanding that derives its intelligibility from the larger story (or metanarrative) in which it is situated. For Christians, this metanarrative is informed by Scripture, which attests to the creative, redemptive, and restorative activity of God as revealed in Christ Jesus.