A religious think tank has asserted that the majority of exorcisms in the U.K. are driven by mental health problems that require psychiatric assistance.
A report from Christian think tank Theos noted that the number of exorcisms in the U.K. has risen significantly because of the growth of immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches. However, the vast majority of cases involve people who are suffering from mental health issues, which require psychiatric treatment instead of exorcisms.
The report titled "Christianity and Mental Health" warned against the dangers of "Christian over-spiritualising" which it defined as a "tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist." However, it does not discount the possibility of actual demonic possession.
"Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus' great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to 'cast out demons'. However, there is also need for serious caution," it stated, as reported by The Guardian.
The think tank noted that there is a danger of a possible overlap between demonic possession and mental health issues.
The report also pointed out that many exorcisms are conducted in defiance of rules and procedures set up by churches, including "The House of Bishops' Guidelines for Good Practice in the Deliverance Ministry 1975" (revised 2012), which was produced by the Church of England.
"One of the frustrations of medical professionals with Christians comes from accounts and anecdotes of people with medical health issues going off their medication because they've been told that prayer is enough, and relapsing as a result," the report further noted.
Ben Ryan, a researcher at Theos and the author of the report, said that the Church should be more involved in engaging with mental health problems because of Jesus' commandment to heal the sick. He contended that mental illness is a sickness that Christians should try to alleviate.
The think tank explained that Jesus' command to cast out demons and heal the sick were not synonymous. It argued that just as medical assistance is recommended for physical ailments, a proper treatment must be recommended for mental illness.
A spokesman for the Church of England said that it takes its deliverance ministry "very seriously and treats each case in a pastoral and private way."
The Church's spokesman further noted that its guidelines indicate that particular caution needs to be exercised when dealing with a person who is in a "distressed" or "disturbed" state.