Wellness and the Church

Books:

  • Greene-McCreight, K. (2015). Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. (2nd ed). Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press.
    • “Where is God in the suffering of a mentally ill person? What happens to the soul when the mind is ill? How are Christians to respond to mental illness? In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and electroconvulsive therapy. Greene-McCreight offers the reader everything from poignant and raw glimpses into the mind of a mentally ill person to practical and forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy. The first edition has been recognized as one of the finest books on the subject. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary. It also includes a new foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a new afterword by the author.”
  • Grcevich, Stephen. (2018). Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children, and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    • “The church across North America has struggled to minister effectively with children, teens, and adults with common mental health conditions and their families. One reason for the lack of ministry is the absence of a widely accepted model for mental health outreach and inclusion. In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The model is based upon recognition of seven barriers to church attendance and assimilation resulting from mental illness: stigma, anxiety, self-control, differences in social communication and sensory processing, social isolation and past experiences of church. Seven broad inclusion strategies are presented for helping persons of all ages with common mental health conditions and their families to fully participate in all of the ministries offered by the local church. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses interested in promoting the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness.”
  • Joiner, T. (2005). Why People Die By Suicide. London: Harvard University Press.
    • “In the wake of a suicide, the most troubling questions are invariably the most difficult to answer: How could we have known? What could we have done? And always, unremittingly: Why? Written by a clinical psychologist whose own life has been touched by suicide, this book offers the clearest account ever given of why some people choose to die. Drawing on extensive clinical and epidemiological evidence, as well as personal experience, Thomas Joiner brings a comprehensive understanding to seemingly incomprehensible behavior. Among the many people who have considered, attempted, or died by suicide, he finds three factors that mark those most at risk of death: the feeling of being a burden on loved ones; the sense of isolation; and, chillingly, the learned ability to hurt oneself. Joiner tests his theory against diverse facts taken from clinical anecdotes, history, literature, popular culture, anthropology, epidemiology, genetics, and neurobiology--facts about suicide rates among men and women; white and African-American men; anorexics, athletes, prostitutes, and physicians; members of cults, sports fans, and citizens of nations in crisis. The result is the most coherent and persuasive explanation ever given of why and how people overcome life's strongest instinct, self-preservation. Joiner's is a work that makes sense of the bewildering array of statistics and stories surrounding suicidal behavior; at the same time, it offers insight, guidance, and essential information to clinicians, scientists, and health practitioners, and to anyone whose life has been affected by suicide.”
  • Koening, H. G. (2005). Faith & Mental Health: Religious Resources for Healing. Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.
    • “Dr. Harold Koenig is the brand in the growing field of spirituality and health. His groundbreaking research has been featured on national and international television and radio shows, on the covers of magazines, and in the headlines of newspapers. Now he opens a window on mental health, providing an unprecedented source of practical information about the relationship between religion mental health. Dr. Koenig examines how Christianity and other world religions deliver mental health services today, and he makes recommendations, based on research, expertise, and experience, for new programs to meet local needs. Meticulously researched and documented, Faith and Mental Health includes: research on the relationship between religion and positive emotions, psychiatric illnesses, and severe and persistent mental disorders, ways in which religion has influenced mental health historically, and how now and in the future it can be involved with mental health, a comprehensive description and categorization of Christian and non-Christian faith-based organizations that provide mental health resources, resources for religious professionals and faith communities on how to design effective programs. Presenting a combination of the history and current research of mental health and religion along with a thorough examination of faith-based organizations operating in the field, this book is a one-of-a-kind resource for the health care community; its valuable research and insights will benefit medical and religious professionals, and anyone concerned with the future of mental health care.”
  • Standford, M. (2017). Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
    • “Why has the church struggled in ministering to those with mental illnesses? Each day men and women diagnosed with mental disorders are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demonic possession, weak faith, and generational sin. As both a church leader and a professor of psychology and behavioral sciences, Matthew S. Stanford has seen far too many mentally ill brothers and sisters damaged by well-meaning believers who respond to them out of fear or misinformation rather than grace. Grace for the Afflicted is written to educate Christians about mental illness from both biblical and scientific perspectives. Stanford presents insights into our physical and spiritual nature and discusses the appropriate role of psychology and psychiatry in the life of the believer. Describing common mental disorders, Stanford probes what science says and what the Bible says about each illness. Consistent with DSM-5 diagnoses, this revised and expanded edition is thoroughly updated with new material throughout, including eight new chapters that cover bipolar disorders, trauma- and stressor-related disorders, dementia, cerebrovascular accidents (stroke), traumatic brain injury, suicide, a holistic approach to recovery, and mental health and the church.”

Research Articles and Editorials:

  • Bledsoe, T. S., Setterlund, K., Adams, C. J. Fok-Trela, A. Connolly, M. (2013). Addressing pastoral knowledge and attitudes about clergy/mental health practitioner collaboration. Social Work & Christianity, 40(1), 23-45.
    • “Developing partnerships between clergy members and mental health practitioners can be an effective way to promote the well-being of parishioners. This study explored (a) the demands on clergy in Southern California to provide mental health services to their parishioners, (b) the level of stress created by specific needs, (c) congregational resources available to meet these needs, and (d) referral preferences in clergy collaboration with mental health professionals. A survey was distributed to a sample of clergy members in which participants were asked to rate the level of sufficiency of services provided; their current referral practices; and general attitudes toward collaborating with outside mental health practitioners. Findings suggest that clergy often provide services in difficult situations, e.g., crisis intervention and abuse, which can lead to high levels of clergy stress; and size of church and level of education may be factors that contribute to such stress. Furthermore, pastors hold positive attitudes about referring to mental health professionals, and largely endorse referring to counseling centers over other community resources. Clinical implications include the need for increased clergy education and training on pastoral care, counseling, and mental health. Opportunities to implement clergy care interventions are also noted.”
  • Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (17 January 2019). “10 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide.” Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Ten-Things-Parents-Can-Do-to-Prevent-Suicide.aspx
  • Focus on the Family: Helping Families Thrive. “Mental Health.” Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/mental-health-resources/
  •  Henderson-Espinoza, R. (10 May 2017). “The Silent Stigma of Mental Illness in the Church.” Sojourners. Retrieved from https://sojo.net/articles/silent-stigma-mental-illness-church
  • Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School. (9 July 2019). “A Church Invests in Mental Health in Response to Parishioners’ Suffering.” Retrieved from https://faithandleadership.com/church-invests-mental-health-response-parishioners-suffering
  • LifeWay. (2019.) “Facts & Trends: Mental Health and The Church.” Retrieved from https://factsandtrends.net/mentalhealth/
  • Polson, L. M., & Rogers, R. K. (2007). Counseling and mental health referral practices of church staff. Journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work, 34(1), 72-87.
    • “Individuals and families in crisis frequently seek help first from their pastor or other church staff. However, these professionals are not necessarily equipped to respond adequately to people struggling with problems of mental health. What do clergy do in these circumstances? This article reports the findings of a study that addressed the question: What are the attitudes about and practices of making referrals to mental health agencies by staff of mainline Protestant congregations in Waco, Texas? Using stratified random sampling, an 18-item survey was mailed to the pastor or designated staff member in 57 congregations, of whom 51 returned the survey. Key findings include that church staff rarely made referrals to mental health professionals. When they did make referrals, it was because they did not feel qualified to deal with the problem. They reported that they were not trained to recognize mental and emotional illnesses and that they needed continuing education to help people with their personal problems.”
  • Rudlin, K. (1 September 2019). “What is Suicide Ideation? Understanding Suicidal Thoughts in Teens?” Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/suicidal-ideation-defined-2611328
  • Thrihub, B. L., McMinn, M. R., Buhrow Jr., W. C., & Johnson, T. F. (2010). Denominational support for clergy mental health. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38(2), 101-110.
    • “To date, minimal research has addressed the actual services provided to maintain the mental health of leadership in the church. Three major Protestant denominations were consulted with in this study, including a total of 434 pastors across the United States. Among these three denominations, a range of services are now being offered to support clergy, with services such as time off, prayer support groups, and clergy retreats among the most valued, adequately provided, and utilized. Still, clergy do not see the provision of services as fully adequate, and report a number of obstacles to utilizing services. Generally, the most highly rated obstacle was financial limitations, followed by difficulty getting time off and concerns about confidentiality. Recommendations offered by clergy respondents are provided.”

Podcasts:

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