In discussions of mental illness, where does the church come in?

January 3, 2013

Mental Illness: What is the Church’s Role?
In this piece written for Q: Ideas for the Common Good, Amy Simpson tells what it is like to have mental illness in the family and why it’s so important for Christians to become involved in helping people whom the current mental health system often fails. She also provides the historical background of why the system has become broken. Discussions in the wake of the Newtown shooting are drawing renewed attention to mental illness, while unfortunately at the same time sometimes resorting to stereotyping and stigmatization. This can give the impression that mental illness is inevitably associated with violence. Not so. Simpson lists practical ways the church could help. But, she says, “in general, the church tends to handle mental illness in one of three ways: ignore it, treat it exclusively as a spiritual problem, or refer people to professionals and wash our hands of their trouble.” For additional reading, see Jo Hilder’s article about mental illness and gun laws in Australia.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.


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