Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission Paperback – Apr 1 2013
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"With no shortage of brains or heart, Amy Simpson courageously explores the realities of mental illness in the twenty-first century. With mental illness on the rise, all church leaders would do well to read this theologically and psychologically compelling volume."--Linda Lake, clinical psychologist
"In Troubled Minds Amy Simpson opens the door into the hidden struggles of those caring for a mentally ill loved one. Between descriptions of her own real-life experiences she eloquently presents information that every Christian should have on how to recognize and appropriately respond to those living with mental illness. This book will prompt you (and your church) to action among a suffering people."--Matthew S. Stanford, professor of psychology and neuroscience, Baylor University, and author, Grace for the Afflicted
"Drawing on her own journey and extensive research, Amy Simpson gives deep insight into the pain of mental illness for those affected and those who love them. She makes puzzling concepts understandable, and she faces head-on the troubling questions raised by mental illness for people of faith. While I was reading the book, a homeless woman struggling with mental illness came to our church. Because of what I'd read, I interacted with her more patiently and effectively. I count this a must-read for pastors and church leaders."--Karen Miller, LCSW, executive pastor, Church of the Resurrection, Wheaton, Illinois
"Having written about my own family's experience with mental illness, I know what it must have cost for Amy Simpson to root her highly informative book in her family's heartbreaking, yet hopeful story. Because of stigma and ignorance, far too many of us live with the pain of mental illness in silence and without compassionate support from our Christian communities. Troubled Minds has the potential to help free us from that quiet loneliness and bring our churches into fuller communion with those who suffer. I highly recommend it."--Christine A. Scheller, news and religion editor, UrbanFaith
"Get ready! Amy Simpson takes you on a thoughtful, vulnerable and even painful journey through the complex landscape of mental illness. There is hope, but not until you go to the emotional and textured depths Troubled Minds provides."--John Ortberg, senior pastor, and Charley Scandlyn, healing minister, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
"Simpson's sensitive recounting of her experience growing up with a schizophrenic parent forms the foundation for a book that belongs underlined and dog-eared on the shelves of every church leader. Troubled Minds is far more than an introduction to the issues surrounding mental illness and the church. It is a call to practical discipleship for everyone who seeks to follow the One who spent much of his ministry caring for the ill and those at the margins of society--often the same people."--Michelle Van Loon, "The 2014 Christianity Today Book Awards," Christianity Today, January/February 2014
"Amy Simpson gives deep insight into the pain of mental illness for those affected and those who love them. I count this a must-read for those of us in church leadership."--Karen Miller, "The 2014 Leadership Book Awards," Leadership Journal, Winter 2014
"In America, mental illness covers . . . a broad set of diagnoses. Simpson gives her readers a helpful, readable digest of mental illnesses. Well-researched and written in layman's terms without oversimplifying, she helps bring readers up to speed about the topic and the issues. . . . Her book is insightful, compassionate and timely. It is a must read for leaders of churches."--Michael R. Chancellor, The Baptist Standard, July 29, 2013
"Troubled Minds offers a thorough and well-researched overview of the realities of mental illness. But Simpson does not resort to professional jargon. The book's real strength lies in Simpson's empathy for those she interviewed, and the compassionate retelling of their stories. Readers will be far better prepared to care for those in their midst who struggle with mental illness. Finally, the book offers hope, both for those who are suffering and for church leaders awakened by Simpson's prophetic call for change. . . . Troubled Minds should prove to be an excellent resource for pastors and lay leaders who minister to the mentally ill."--Michael Mangis, Christianity Today, June 2013
About the Author
Amy Simpson (MBA, University of Colorado) is a passionate leader and communicator who loves to encourage Christ's church and its people to discern and fulfill their calling in this life. Amy is a former publishing executive who currently serves as Editor of Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership and Senior Editor of Leadership Journal. She is also a personal and professional Co-Active coach. She has spent nearly two decades as an award-winning writer, authoring numerous resources for Christian ministry, including Diving Deep: Experiencing Jesus Through Spiritual Disciplines, In the Word: Bible Study Basics for Youth Ministry, Into the Word: How to Get the Most from Your Bible and Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission. She has published articles with Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, Today's Christian Woman, Christian Singles, Group magazine, Relevant, Her.meneutics, and others. She has worked for Tyndale House Publishers, Group Publishing, Gospel Light, Standard Publishing, LifeWay, Focus on the Family, and Christianity Today. Amy holds an English degree from Trinity International University and an MBA from the University of Colorado. She is deeply in love with her incredible husband, Trevor, and extremely proud of her two fantastic kids. She lives with these wonderful people in Illinois, where she is committed to using the gifts God has given her in work that changes the world. Visit Amy's website at www.amysimpsononline.com or follow her on Twitter at @aresimpson.
Marshall Shelley is a vice preisdent of Christianity Today, and editor of Leadership Journal. He is the author of a number of books, including Well-Inspired Dragons. He and his family live in the Chicago suburbs.
Top Customer Reviews
Mental Illness is a topic that for the most part churches ignore, yet according to Amy Simpson’s new book, Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Mission of the Church, the effects of mental illness on both the people who live with it and the family and friends that support them make it an issue that affects almost everyone in the church.
This may seem astonishing at first, but when you consider the statistic that almost one in four people live with some form of mental illness, the astonishment will wear away quickly. For many of us though, the idea of mental illness has been conditioned by what we see on television and movies, where the people who live with such illnesses are vastly over-portrayed as some sort of violent criminals. Often our only other encounters are with the people we see living on the street. Just as often, we only notice who they are when they are when their illness is having it’s most devastating effect on their lives. We find mental illness mystifying and frightening and want to back away from it.
Among the many things that Troubled Minds attempts to do, is to demystify what it means to live with mental illness. Simpson does this first and foremost by presenting a human face to the issue. Of the many strengths of Simpson’s book, it’s humanizing quality is the strongest. The author starts at the point of her own story of how her family has shared life with a family member living with mental illness. In Simpson’s case it is her mother who has lived with Schizophrenia for many years. Simpson takes us on the journey that the family has gone on.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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. Mental illness may not be curable, but often does respond well to medical treatment. How tragic that so many Christians suffer in silence rather than seeking such help.
Troubled Minds also outlines how some churches have developed thriving ministries to those with mental illness. Amy 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.
I've heard other believers insist that mental illness is always a spiritual issue. "It's demons. End of story."
I'm glad to say I've also known believers who've been caring and faithful friends to those suffering from mental illness. There are many more who want to be, but don't know how.
A new book, Troubled Minds (IVP, 2013) will help many more of us learn to be both friend and advocate for the mentally ill in our families, churches and communities. Author Amy Simpson, whose mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia while Amy was growing up, has penned a guide that includes a sensitive retelling of her family's story and a helpful discussion for those in the church about issues surrounding mental illness including definitions, categories, and chapters about suffering, coping, church and ministry life,
stigma, what churches can do and what God does. A rock-solid resource list rounds out the 221-page book.
Simpson notes that in this era where doctors, counselors and social workers are available to treat those with mental illness, we in the church have an important role to play, too:
"...Why is people's experience in the church so important? Because God cares deeply about the sick and marginalized. He judged the people of Israel harshly because `they deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans.' (Is. 10:2) Who is more needy than people suffering from disorders that distort their perceptions of reality itself?"
She goes on to explain that God used her local church, flawed at times in their response to her struggling family, to be a safe place in her turbulent life while consistently pointing her toward Jesus. Those of us who have mentally-ill family members need safe places to process what is happening in our families; those of us who have been diagnosed with mental illness desperately need people to form a caring network around us. This is simply discipleship, and it requires from those of us supporting the ill person or their family a commitment that can't be crystallized into a workbook, program or recipe. It means faithfulness through the mess, chaos and confusion of drugs, doctors, hospitals and the consequences of the mentally ill person's choices.
One of the resources throughout the book toward which Simpson points her readers is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I do want to take a moment to recommend to you this grassroots organization (which has chapters in every state). They offer support and education for the mentally-ill and their families, and are also involved in lobbying efforts. They are a helpful community resource for individuals, but they also have much to offer churches wondering how to better care for the mentally-ill in their midst.
Simpson is a strong, capable writer, and does an excellent job addressing the Christian community about a topic most haven't known how to best respond. Her experience gives her words authority. Though the book is written primarily to inform and motivate, it is also a love letter to the church she believes can rise up and care well for those who qualify as "the least of these".
Though Simpson touches on demonic activity as a factor in mental illness, she notes, "Confronting demon possession or demonic influence should not be the starting point for our response to troubled people. If an illness responds to medical intervention, it's a medical problem. And that should be the starting point." I would have liked her to elaborate a bit further about when consideration of demonic activity might be of value, and how to proceed without further stigmatizing the person or compromising their treatment.
I believe a copy of this book belongs (dog-eared and underlined) on the shelf of every ministry leader I know, as well as those of us who have mentally-ill family members, or have ourselves been diagnosed with mental illness.
***I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, but the price tag did not in any way affect my review of this book.