I recently had the privilege of reading Amy Simpson's new book, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission, available from InterVarsity Press. The short video above gives you a sneak peek into the book.
Simpson's mom struggles with schizophrenia, and she had her first full mental breakdown when Simpson was only 14. In Troubled Minds, she shares her own story and how the church helped—and didn't help—her family during this difficult time. This incredibly practical book lays out helpful descriptions of the basic types of mental illness, ways the family of a person with mental illness is impacted, and the stigma and struggles people with mental illness face when attending church. She also breaks down the issues church leaders face when ministering to people with mental illness, and offers great advice for how churches can respond in compassionate, helpful ways.
One of the most important parts of Simpson's book, though, is helping to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness. For instance, mental illness is far more common than many of us realize. She explains that over 25 percent of American adults will face mental illness this year and that many people with mental illness will seek help in the church. In fact, according to a survey discussed in the book, "nearly half (44.5 percent) of church leaders are approached 2 to 5 times per year about dealing with mental illness; 32.8 percent are approached more frequently, from 6 to more than 12 times per year."
If you haven't been approached yet, there's a good chance you will be—all the more reason to understand mental illness and learn ways to help those suffering. This is especially important when you consider the struggles people with mental illness face when attending church. Simpson says the problem is only exacerbated by uninformed leaders, the wrong belief that Christians don't deal with mental illness, and a church culture that expects attenders to live mess-free lives. People with mental illness may also face Christians who spiritualize the problem—even sending the message that they aren't walking with the Lord if they're suffering.
We must do better, especially in our small groups. If we seek to create safe environments for people to grow in their relationship with God and with one another, we must make our groups safe for all people, including those facing mental illness and their family members.
May is Mental Health Month, and we want you to have the resources you need to minister to people with mental illness. We offer a great four-session Bible study on ministering to people with mental illness and an excellent article from Amy Simpson on ways your small group can help people who are dealing with mental illness. Plus, check out an excerpt from her book: "Mental Illness Is Mainstream."