Monday, October 19, 2015

Troubled Minds

Mental Illness and the Church's Mission, [foreword by Marshall Shelley]

     This is a hard read. It's a good read, but a hard read, because there is so much truth inside that it hurts. It hurts my mind and it pains my heart, with story after story of suffering, as Simpson unveils the agony of life with mental illness and the common responses in the church.

     As much as Troubled Minds is a collection of stories from different people with different illnesses, it is also a compilation of facts; a plea for help, and a desperate cry for change - help and change outside of the mental health care system. As Simpson so graciously points out, the system was not made to do what many people need it to do.

     "[The mental health system] was designed to help people who were going to deteriorate. Now we need a mental health system that facilitates folks who are going to recover."
(Chapter 4, page 81)
     --William Anthony
     Executive Director; Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University
     There are things in the mental health system that have come a long way. Knowledge. Facts. Information. Technology. Medication. Counseling. Naturally, there are also things that still need a lot of work, and other things that may never be fully understood. Diagnosing and treating mental illnesses is a practice saturated with hesitation and theorizing, and within the church it is a practice heavily stigmatized. For many Christians, receiving and/or accepting medication for the ailments of the mind is a moral dilemma, and because mental illness is something majorly kept to oneself, it is not an issue that anyone can bring up confidently in the places where they ought to have the most support.

     What happened to caring for the tired, the hungry, the weak, and the hurting? Where in the name of love were the mentally ill discounted among the suffering? When will families be able to come out in confidence and share their pain with a church body that will not condemn them for it?

     One of the most important things for people struggling with mentally illness is safety. Amidst all the stigma and the sheer volume of misunderstanding, sharing these experiences with the church is not seen as safe, and often times this drives people away. But of all people, should not the church be drawing them in? In support, in love, in prayer?

     Mental illness, while unbelievably common, is still a category so unknown to so many. Amy Simpson does an impeccable job at shedding light on the subject. Anyone looking to care, to understand, or even to know that they are not alone, can gain much from what she has to say.

     "Denying the reality of mental illness has the same effect as denying the reality of other illnesses: it discourages treatment and stands in the way of redemption. It hinders agonized people from crying out their pain, bringing their sickness to Jesus and finding ease for their suffering. It forces sick people and their loved ones to choose between the church and life."

For more information on Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson, visit our website here.

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