After a problematic tweet, the R&B singer is doubling down on faith as a cure for mental illness.
Twitter is a place for learning, for connection, and a place where people post their most problematic thoughts and face backlash for them — all in the name of fun. YouTuber turned R&B singer Queen Naija is currently the center of that online spiral of attention after she posted a concerning Tweet regarding mental health. This week she wrote, “Last night I felt a spirit of depression trying to come on me and instead of dwelling in it, I commanded it to leave in the name of Jesus. God gave us power, we gotta use it.” Her comments immediately upset mental health advocates but in the hours since her first tweet about the issue, she’s been doubling down on her faith-based views.
Since originally posting, Naija has turned off comments on her posts, but doesn’t seem to mind continuing to espouse God as a cure-all for mental illness. She did try to clarify, “Never meant to offend anyone who goes through depression or any mental illnesses. Those things ARE real, however, I personally believe that there are bad spirits to put you in a bad place. However, I won’t take back that you have to use the power God gives you. To each their own.” It’s nice that she acknowledged that mental illness is real, but suggesting that it’s caused by spirits in the same breath doesn’t really make for an apology or a scientifically sound argument. But Christianity’s relationship with science is complex.
While meditation has been proven to be a powerful tool for easing the symptoms of some mental illnesses by helping people manage stress and anxiety — and many consider prayer a form of meditating — it doesn’t seem that Naija was advocating for spirituality as a tool to support one’s mental health. Her comments suggest more that only believing in a Christian version of God, and the results of that belief, can cure depression. I don’t have to spell out why this is unsavory — especially since impressionable young people battling mental illness themselves could read this and feel robbed of their agency when it comes to managing their health.
Also proposing that people who have mental illnesses are “possessed” in any way is a dangerous and offensive argument to make. She went on, “I also believe there’s no such thing is [sic] bad people...they’re just bad spirits within those people” and while contemplating evil as a form of possession isn’t a new or even controversial idea at this point, it’s the slippery slope on which Naija chose to add depression into her framework that makes her comments both reductive and harmful.
Studies have been done that conclude that religion can be beneficial for both physical and mental health. The Mayo Clinic reported, “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.”
But Christianity is far from the only religion, and more loose perspectives of spirituality have become popular as well in modern society — the paths to wholeness and peace are vast. Also faith shouldn’t be prescriptive for clinical disorders. Naija doesn’t seem to mind people taking issue with her comments though. Keeping true to Christian narratives, she’s spinning the negativity into an opportunity for martyrdom. She tweeted, “Promise nobody will everrrrrrrr bully me out my faith or talking about it lol,” and posted a bible verse about people being persecuted for their beliefs in Christianity. That might be one way to get to heaven, but it’s not a cure for depression.