Resources for the Church’s Care of People With Mental Health Problems

In the November 2019 Trumpet, I wrote about the beginning of an Ad Hoc group of Trinity members that want to help answer the question of how we can best support individuals and families impacted by Mental Illness. I also talked about the high probability that most of us at Trinity know someone who has been or is currently being impacted by mental illness. Therefore, this Ad Hoc group asked Caren Goodman, Trinity member, Bible study teacher, and Logsdon doctoral student, to recommend some books that she has found helpful in her research on how congregations can support individuals with mental health problems. 

This is simply a first step, an invitation to each of you to become better educated about the emotional trauma of mental illness and the “compassionate care” and “authentic friendship”, described by the authors Caren recommends. As Christians and as a “Caring Family of Believers”, we are challenged to keep growing and to learn what it means to show Christ’s love to “our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ” who suffer with mental illness. I am grateful to Caren for providing the following annotated bibliography: 

Carlson, Dwight L. Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? Helping (Not Hurting) Those With Emotional Difficulties. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994. Dwight Carlson shows from both the Bible and the medical field why those who suffer from emotional difficulties deserve compassionate care not condemnation. This book offers help both to those who hurt and to those who counsel. 

Greene-McCreight, Kathryn. Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2015. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, priest and theologian, writes out of her own experience with bipolar disorder. She offers personal glimpses into the mind of mentally ill persons, as well as, practical, forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy. 

Simpson, Amy. Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. Amy Simpson, whose family knows the trauma and bewilderment of mental illness, reminds us that people with mental illness are our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in Christ. She guides us to loving them well and becoming a church that loves God with our whole hearts and souls and minds. 

Swinton, John. Resurrecting the Person: Friendship and the Care of People with Mental Health Problems. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000. John Swinton argues that while mental illnesses are often biological and genetic in origin, the real handicap experienced by those struggling from mental illness is imposed by the reactions and attitudes typical of our culture. The author suggests that the key to the effective pastoral care of individuals with severe mental illness lies not only within the realms of psychiatry, therapy, and pharmacological intervention, but in the re-humanization which results from the relationship of authentic friendship. 

Webb, Marcia. Toward A Theology of Psychological Disorder. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. Marcia Webb explores attitudes about psychological disorder in the church and compares them to the scriptural testimony. She offers theological and psychological insights to help contemporary Christians integrate biblical perspectives with current scientific knowledge about mental illness. 

written by Vicki Hollon, D.Min.
Minister of Older Adults