A Christian Guide to Mental Illness

A Christian Guide to Mental Illness by David Murray and Tom Karel Jr. sits on my list of the top five books about the topic of mental iIlness. Written in 2023 and 244 pages long, this book is divided into 30 short chapters which can easily be read in minutes/small chunks.

What makes this book especially unique and helpful is the very candid personal stories on the topic. At the risk of being pegged a gadfly, I will not repeat any of the personal stories. Suffice it to say that these stories add a definite tone of humility and utter dependence on the Lord, not to mention “personal touch” which draws the reader in and makes the book a “page turner”.

 If my new method of marking especially helpful pages is any indication of the helpfulness of a book, about a dozen pages are marked with a folded corner to revisit, repeat and dig into again, indicating a very helpful book indeed. Also, the chapter titled “The Story Behind This Book” is very personal and adds a wonderful dimension to the contents. “Due to their painful experience of trying to care for Gary through these traumatic years, Norman and his wife, Vicki, felt called of God to donate this money ($70,000, which had been realized from Gary’s estate – Gary had been Norman’s brother and  had schizophrenia) to a research project (this very book!  Thank you!) that would ultimately help Christians care for other Christians with mental illness.” The very last line of the book (before the index) reads: “The purpose of this book is to help the reader understand how the broken brain does not work, (analogy to a broken arm) to set the broken brain in the context of the gospel, and to discover how the church can bring comfort to the mentally ill and their families by watching for a Galatians 5:22-24 moment.”

 The first 11 chapters or almost 100 pages focus on mental illness: what it is, how it affects the sufferer and spiritual life and those around the sufferer. Moreover, addressed are how people react to having it, hurdles to recovery and causes.

     The next chapters (12-18, about 50 pages) focus on roles such as the roles pastors play in helping sufferers, role of church community, role of family and friends. Furthermore, the part that professionals play, medications and biblical counselors are touched on.

     The last 11 chapters (19-30) answer primarily “How can we…” questions. How can we help a sufferer grow spiritually, how can we help someone who is suicidal, and how can care be given for the caregivers. The last question deserves a full book – there’s so much more that can be said about caring for caregivers.

Some favorite parts – the authors give very helpful explanations of the two main types of mental illness, although there is overlap and both may be present in one person. The two categories are primarily affective (mood) disorders and mind disorders. The mood disorders mainly affect the mood or emotions and include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, …” page 24 The second main category is primarily thought (mind) disorders. “While the affective disorders are often disabling and devastating, perhaps more confusing and perplexing are the diagnoses classified under ‘thought disorders.’ These diagnoses would include: schizophrenia … psychosis.” There’s an ongoing struggle to “make sense out of reality.” This involves very disordered thoughts and often an inability to communicate effectively.  These two authors also face the fact and effectively communicate the reality of voices, a topic often glossed over, and at times, disregarded or not thought to be true. Well, voices  are for real, both auditory and visual hallucinations are for real, speaking of those that are  not drug induced.

Another very helpful page was page 61 where the authors discuss submission and service. In the context of the chapter on “How does mental illness affect those around the sufferer,” we read that part of a healthy response to mental illness is “accepting God’s will in the matter.” “We stop fighting and denying. We bow down and say ‘Not my will, but your will be done.’ Going further, those around the sufferer must recognize and accept the sufferer’s limitations and “adjust accordingly.” Accept it, don’t think or try to change it. Why? :This is the only way to silence torturous questions like, “Why me?” or “Why them?”

     The comments about service were very much appreciated as a clear recognition of the long term problem mental illness often is and repercussions. “…therefore it’s best if we frame it as one of the primary areas in which we serve God, rather than as an inconvenience that may hinder our service to God.” How freeing and affirming to read that on page 61.

     In the section pertaining to the role the church community has, the reader is reminded that although mental illness isolates people and “makes them feel unloved and unwanted, deepening the illness,” we should never “underestimate the power of including them and welcoming them in the church family.” In other words, “Mental illness cuts off, but the church family connects.” page 109 (Reviewer’s note: another book could be written on this and the great need of the church to do more.)

  There are so many more gems and highlights of wisdom in this book. It’s really like a treasure trove, and very readable. In fact, the use of white space, bold headings, parenthetical quotes and chapter summaries including problem, insights and action, plus stories, make the book very readable, not daunting which one might think, given the subject matter. 

     A shortcoming of the book is the too short chapter on caring for caregivers. This is such a neglected topic in the whole discussion. (After all, there are still people who think the parent caused the issue or that the sufferer can merely snap out of it… even some who think it’s contagious and they might catch it if they get too close.) So much more could and should someday be written about the caregivers who often rarely get out because they cannot leave their loved one alone. There are many reasons for this, which may warrant yet another book! There are concerns that a voice could tell someone to leave the house and go away, a voice that could say hurt yourself or someone else. And what of the little man in the tree looking back? Or the face in the radio, looking back to torment. Who can write that book?

A Few Quotes

“Grace teaches us, in the midst of life’s greatest comforts — to be willing to die, and, in the midst of its greatest crosses — to be willing to live.”  Matthew Henry who lived 1662 – 1714.

 

 

Excerpt from Book: Forgotten Passenger

Prologue:  What if…

 

    What if we could walk in this world, knowing that many folks are trying to function as best as

 

they can?  There are not enough  psychiatric hospitals in Michigan, not enough in

 

the  USA, and not enough  in the world.  Mental Illness is real.  It’s so real and prevalent we

 

want to deny it .But what if instead of denying it and/or thinking it’s the worst thing out there, we

 

saw it instead as a something  to steward, something  coming from the heavenly Father, the

 

Creator of the universe?  IT IS THAT.  And those who are given it (mental illness) are the

 

stewards of it; those who are the parents and legal guardians and the consumers themselves

 

are in a sense, stewards.  

 

    What is a steward?  In Pride and Prejudice, the steward was in charge of the estate, to make

 

an accounting of it, preserve it, and multiply it.  What if we saw ourselves in a like manner?  

 

Rather than be afraid and embarrassed, we accept it, embrace it, and face it head on?  We

 

glean insights and pass those on to others. We would see that not only is the best care given,

 

but we would choose to learn from the consumer so that insight and wisdom could be

 

gleaned and multiplied many times over.      

 

    What if we shed some of our judgmental attitudes and gave folks the benefit of the doubt and

 

encouraged him/her to just “be” , within the bounds of good morals? What if we encouraged

 

him/her to write the book or journal, to paint the art – however abstract or non realistic we may

 

think, to make music, to make pottery even if it’s not “perfect”, to sing new songs?

 

I’m not purporting chaos, but rather to foster an environment where one can make a piece of

 

art, a piece of pottery or sing a new song.  If someone with a mental illness, for example, was in

 

pottery class and he attended every class except when sick once or twice, did every written

 

assignment (none were ever returned with a grade, mind you, in the case I am familiar with), did

 

every pottery assignment and end up with a D, is that really legitimate? Maybe the strict criteria

 

should be forgotten for a moment.  Let the person peacefully and calmly try and create.  We

 

may be surprised at what comes out/is made.  If it’s a speech, forget the strict time limit.  If it’s

 

cooking, buy the ingredients even if we think they may not go together.  

 

LISTEN UP:  THERE ARE CREATIVE, INTELLIGENT FOLKS TRAPPED IN MINDS THAT

 

HAVE BEEN WIRED TO MISFIRE.  If we stigmatize and blame the person, we are in

 

essence BLAMING GOD.  God made this person in HIS image and

 

HE DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES. As author, Stephanie Hubach says, “Disability is a normal

 

part of life in an abnormal world.” He may have made this person with bipolar or schizophrenia

 

to help you, dear reader, yes you, the sibling or parent, friend or teacher to suck it up and grow

 

in character.  Did you ever consider that?  Like me, I thought I knew what love was, but I realize

 

it was a shallow and bare bones love.  It wasn’t until my family member was diagnosed that

 

flesh grew on the bareboned love and more of  hesed love developed.

 

    Mental Illness is a goldmine for figuring out how to really live.  The Proverbs is pertinent to

 

those with mental illness.  In fact, living with mental illness as a consumer or family member

 

makes the Proverbs come alive.  You see, Mental Illness helps us understand the Creator

 

God better.  Mental Illness is in a sense, an unseen disability (compared to a palsy or bodily

 

deformity, eg.) and it stretches us in ways we never thought possible; we grow in ways we

 

never thought possible.  If we see it as coming from God, as something to steward, this may

 

help us change our perspective.

 

Free Resource for You!

A List of Mental Health Resources from Daisy Petals

compiled by Jane E. Vos with help from Alyssa, Colleen, AC, Cil, Mo and Debbie!

Learning that you or a loved one has a mental illness can be devastating. Your world is turned “upside down”. Finding support and resources can take months of research. In the meantime, it is easy to lose hope and feel alone. This collection of helpful resources has come together after 5 years of effort. We care about what you’re going through. 

Click here to download.

“Sole Blessings”

Congratulations to Hannah Vander Velde for winning our contest! Hannah is a caring momma and has a heart for serving others. Her entry: Sole Blessings is the winner, receiving the most votes. Daisy Petals will call the sock give away program: Sole Blessings!

Thank you to all who submitted entries: Linda Belokonny , Gina Noteboom Phillips , Mary Kathryn StoneMary Beth MauerLori Whitney , and @Michelle Smith-Dudenhoefer.

Hannah wins a copy of the Beyond Suffering Bible which Joni Eareckson Tada and her team prepared.

What Do You Call a Pair of Socks Filled with Goodies and Necessities?

wool socks

We need your help for naming our sock give away program! What should we call it? These socks will be stuffed with goodies and given away to our community’s homeless, mentally ill and disabled.

wool socks

Daisy Petals is getting ready for the Fall Give Away of what we used to call Blessing Bags. This year, realizing that everyone needs socks, we are going to put the contents of the blessing bags into a pair of socks, not a ziplock  bag. That’s right, we want to give out a pair of socks filled with a new toothbrush, mini tube of toothpaste, q tips, hand sani, comb, granola bar, Scripture portion, and a few more items.

Help us name the pair of socks…ideas:  Sock Magic, Sock Love, Pair of Socks with Goodies, or? Please submit your name ideas by July 27.  Winning name to be announced August 1, 2017.  Winner will receive a gift.

Broken Minds

a book by Steve and Robyn Bloehm

Broken Minds - book cover

Steve’s own struggle with depression led him to co-author this helpful book with his wife. He was heading for ministry work when his mind began to “break” as he calls it in the title.

There is a lot of very helpful information in this book including definitions, treatment options, services available and interactions with the church and with God.