This is a book the church really needs.
Many people in our communities are affected by mental illness of one kind or another, but how do our church communities respond? This book identifies people who fall through the gaps or are even damaged by contact with churches and looks at what can be done about it.
Let’s look at some Australian statistics: 45 per cent of people aged between 16 and 85 will experience mental illness at some stage in their lives; one in five people will experience mental illness during this year; 14 per cent of children and adolescents aged 12–17 years have mental health problems. Mental illness is commonplace and usually treatable, from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
American author Amy Simpson has lived the story herself. She recounts her family’s struggle to survive when her mother developed schizophrenia. Her father was a pastor and her family strongly rooted in Christian life. This story is bravely told, as every family member suffered deeply and struggled long and hard to make sense of the pain and confusion they have felt over so many years in relation to their local church.
Troubled Minds helps us understand mental illness, how people are affected, how churches commonly respond and what can be done about it. Amy draws on eye-opening surveys of pastors, research and the stories of many people she has met to explain how and why churches so often fail people with mental illness, their families and friends.
Amy thoroughly explores the prevailing stigma that surrounds mental illness. Stigma is harmful and makes people unnecessarily fearful: people affected by mental illness, ministers and church members. This book explores strategies for addressing stigma, welcoming people and supporting them. It honestly and thoughtfully recognises and addresses the challenges in responding to people whose needs may be intensive, intrusive, long-term and difficult to fit into congregational life.
Amy Simpson expresses the hope “that the church will be synonymous with hope in the minds of people who can find hope nowhere else.” What a challenge!
Research Officer, Queensland Synod
Schizophrenia Awareness Week runs from 11 to 17 May.