Troubled Minds: Mental Health and the Church’s Mission. Authored by Amy Simpson. Foreword by Marshall Shelley. Published by InterVarsity Press. Available at Amazon.
Amy Simpson’s new book is a much needed catalyst to a long overdue discussion on the topic of how the church can share the love of Christ with persons with mental illness and their families. Her life experiences with a mother with chronic schizophrenia and a father who served as a pastor uniquely prepared her to speak into the topic.
In the book, Amy does a great job of laying out the case (with data) of why more effective ministry to people with mental health issues should be high on any church’s list of priorities. She provides clergy with language and Scriptural support to respond with sensitivity to members and attendees struggling with mental health disorders. She emphasizes the reality that the first place many people turn to in a mental health crisis is the church. More importantly, she shares dozens of practical suggestions for more effective ministry, including ideas for pastors, professionals, caregivers, and persons with mental illness to implement in churches of all denominations and organizational structures.
Amy writes from the perspective of someone who grew up inside the church from a family that stayed connected with church through her mother’s mental illness. Throughout the book, she emphasizes the need for pastors, church staff and members to do a better job of caring for persons with mental illness and their families. She did make one large assumption in the book with which I’d take issue…even though I don’t have good data to buttress my argument-just experience and observations.
If your church is typical of the US population, on any given Sunday one in four adults and one in five children sitting around you is suffering from a mental illness.
In my mind, an even greater tragedy than the treatment many persons with mental illness have experienced in the church is the potential for mental illness to represent a significant barrier to church attendance and participation for those afflicted and their families. For example, here’s an interesting study published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology reporting that women were 1.42 times less likely to attend church if they experienced a first episode of depression prior to the age of 18 compared to women who experienced a first episode as adults or had never been depressed.
From where I sit as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I don’t believe that our churches are typical of the US population on any given Sunday morning in terms of the number of persons in attendance with mental illness. Nowhere close. In addition to doing a better job of caring for “our own” with mental health issues, we need to become very intentional in reaching out to those beyond our walls who desperately need to experience the love of Christ but haven’t been able to overcome the barriers posed by our attitudes or ministry environments.
No church will be able to meet every need of families impacted by mental illness, but every church can do something. Amy Simpson has demonstrated significant courage in using the platform she has earned through years of work at Christianity Today to shine a spotlight on a topic the American church desperately needs to address. Troubled Minds serves as a great conversation starter.
Disclosure: I purchased Troubled Minds with personal funds at Amazon. Key Ministry received a promotional copy of the book for a giveaway through InterVarsity Press. The winner of our promotional copy is Patti Sass from Hastings, NE.
Amy Simpson is author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission (InterVarsity Press). She also serves as editor of Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership. You can find her at www.AmySimpsonOnline.com and on Twitter @aresimpson.