In her new book, Troubled Minds, Amy Simpson bravely shares her own story of how her mother’s mental health affected her upbringing. She speaks of not feeling she could tell any of her friends about her mother’s mental illness. Troubled Minds also weaves in experiences shared by other Christians, and shares the results of a survey of church leaders on the subject. This is an excellent book for those who have no understanding of mental illness, but it also has a great message for those who do already have experience in the area. There is a real power in stories. This book will help you humanize those suffering from these conditions, much like certain movies set out to do. Reading was a riveting experience, and I even found a tear forming in my eye at some points.
In response to this book we are also hosting a site-wide conversation about faith and mental illness. We would love you to join in.
It is hard for many Christians to relate to mental illness because it is something that is not openly or frequently spoken about. It is brave of Amy to share her experiences, and we are grateful to her mother for giving her permission to make this inspiring story public. It is not surprising that most people with mental illness do not feel that they can share in a similar way. Mental illness is a painful part of the lives of those who have experienced it in themselves or have loved ones with a psychiatric diagnosis. It is not always appropriate to share such pain broadly with others. Not everybody has to live like a celebrity does where privacy simply doesn’t exist. It is often very unwise to publicly announce that you suffer from such an illness due to the stigma that still surrounds this, in all our communities. We therefore benefit all the more from those who carefully decide they are called to speak openly about their condition for the good of others.
Unfortunately, many people feel unable to share the pain that mental illness causes even with their pastors or close friends. When people like Amy Simpson bravely tell their stories, it will surely help others at least feel able to seek support. Maybe one day we will feel as ready to share openly that we or a loved one is mentally ill as we currently would if the problem was a heart attack. I doubt that day will swiftly come, nor perhaps should it. But, I do hope that mental illness will cease being the hidden illness that nobody speaks about. Amy’s book is uncomfortable reading at times as she points out some of the shortcomings of the approaches of both the typical church and psychiatric services. We can all learn to do much better than we do currently.
Amy’s book is also full of hope. It is vital for people, especially in the middle of an acute episode, to realize that for most people there really is a way back from even the most severe attacks. Doctor’s may not be able to cure mental illness, but it often does respond well to medical treatment. How tragic that so many Christians suffer in silence rather than seeking such help. I urge you, if you can read only two of my posts on the subject to read the following posts which together outline a way we can all help in identifying people who may benefit from a specialist assessment:
Troubled Minds also outlines how some churches have developed thriving ministries to those with mental illness. She recommends considering starting support groups for those who either suffer themselves or have family members with a mental illness. She also suggests that church pastors should attempt to forge strong partnerships with psychiatrists and therapists (whether Christian or not) for the benefit of members who suffer in this way. So often patient’s medical care is not well coordinated, and pastors may feel that if a person is seeing a specialist there is nothing that they can do to contribute. This could hardly be further from the truth, as I intend to demonstrate further as my own mental health series continues.
If what you have read so far has left you hungry to read personal accounts and eager to learn how you could support others, then I highly recommend that you get hold of Amy Simpson’s Troubled Minds and read it.
You can read more about this book over on the Patheos Book Club.
In light of Amy’s book, my own series, mental health awareness month, and the recent tragedy in Rick Warren’s family, I have been asked to host a Patheos-wide conversation on Mental Illness. Check back here for more details of that on Monday.