Mental Health and Your Church: A Handbook for Biblical Care – Helen Thorne and Steve Midgley

Mental Health and Your Church: A Handbook for Biblical Care (A Ministry Guide to Mental Illness, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma and Addiction) by Helen Thorne, Steve Midgley
Also by this author: Hope in an Anxious World: 6 Truths for When Things Feel Overwhelming, 5 Things to Pray for a Suffering Friend: Prayers That Change Things for Friends or Family Who Are Walking through Trials, The Heart of Anger: How the Bible Transforms Anger in Our Understanding and Experience
Published by Good Book Company on March 1, 2023
Genres: Healthcare, Non-Fiction, Christian Life

Helping you and the whole church family understand, nurture, and support those with mental-health conditions.

Many people are struggling with mental-health conditions, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and life in our image-conscious culture. Statistics tell us that, worldwide, one in six of us will have experienced a mental-health struggle in the past week, and serious depression is the second-leading cause of disability (Mental Health Foundation).

That means there are brothers and sisters in our church families battling with thoughts, feelings, impulses, and even voices that distract, drag down, and nudge them towards despair. But when it comes to helping, it can be tricky to know where to begin, especially if we have very little knowledge of mental illnesses and are afraid of making things worse by saying and doing the wrong things.

This wise, compassionate, and practical book is written by Steve Midgley, psychiatrist and Executive Director of Biblical Counselling UK, and Helen Thorne, Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK. It will help readers understand and respond with biblical wisdom to people who are struggling with their mental health.

While acknowledging the importance of liaising responsibly with medics and counsellors, this book focuses on equipping readers to play their part in making churches places where those who struggle with mental-health conditions are welcomed, understood, nurtured, and supported: a foretaste of the new creation.

This is a useful book for anyone who cares for others pastorally: pastors, elders, small-group leaders, and congregation members.

This excellent book addresses an important topic in a timely, compassionate way, giving church leaders and members the information they need to better understand and support people struggling with mental health issues. The first section explains core concepts related to understanding mental illness, introduces different types of treatment, and helps readers relate this to a biblical view of humanity. The second section focuses on what people can do in their churches to raise awareness and provide practical assistance, and the final section shares fictional case studies for how churches could rally alongside individuals and families affected by specific struggles.

Throughout Mental Health and Your Church: A Handbook for Biblical Care, Helen Thorne and Dr. Steve Midgley write with great compassion and understanding, providing balanced and helpful advice for what mental health support can look like in the church. The authors warn congregations against taking on an inappropriate level of care, but even as they encourage churches to partner with mental health professionals, they also warn churches against completely outsourcing care and not providing the practical, relational, and spiritual support that suffering church members need. The authors also strike a great balance between challenging stigma and acknowledging those who suffer from compassion fatigue.

As they empower church members to make a difference in people’s lives, Thorne and Midgley share ideas for how churches can prevent or repair unhealthy dynamics in helping relationships. For example, they encourage churches to organize teams of helpers, rather than allowing a suffering church member to become dependent on one person. This protects the helper’s time and emotional margin, and protects the person needing help from feeling rejected and abandoned when their friend inevitably burns out and has to back off. The authors also include helpful insights for how pastors and church members can handle spiritual trauma cases where people have experienced rejection at previous churches or find the Bible triggering because of others’ misuse of it.

Mental Health and Your Church is an excellent book for church leaders and members, and I have never read anything quite like it. It is compassionate, insightful, and filled with practical information. My main critique is that I wish the book had included more types of mental struggles and differences, such as developmental delays and autism, and that the authors had better defined OCD, which only came up in passing. However, even though this book would be even better with additional topics included, the authors repeatedly acknowledge the book’s limited scope. They knew that they couldn’t speak to everything, but still provided wide-ranging insight and practical ideas for positive, lasting change in church communities.