If you have ever been involved in Christian counselling or prayer ministry, or if you have acquaintances, friends or family who have a mental illness, then this book is, quite simply, an absolutely essential read.
Stanford takes the major issues of mental illnesses and describes their symptoms and their known causes according to the latest research and in the context of the agape love of Jesus. He outlines intricate brain disorders in the simplest of terms, without compromising essential detail. He then describes what drugs and psychological techniques are used and their positive and negative outcomes and, in each chapter of the book, as Stanford deals with a different mental disorder, he includes the story of someone he knows who is living with the condition.
He comments: “I included all these stories in Grace for the Afflicted to put a personal face on mental illness and to give readers a better understanding of just how devastating it is. When we discuss mental illness, we are talking, in the broader sense, about wounded people with damaged lives – precious children of God whom we have been called to love and whose burdens we have been called to carry.”
He recognises the different skills that Christian pastors and church workers have, but acknowledges that many have not adequate training in the field of mental illness. This can lead to inappropriate diagnoses or an insistence that people with a mental illness should have more faith and be healed through prayer, the result being that people are hurt by the church and are not being given the treatment they require. As he says, “While pastors may have extensive training in interpreting the Scriptures, typically they have no formal training in the causes and treatment of psychiatric illnesses.”
This book clearly shows that mental illness often has a biological element and, in the same way that a pastor may advise a person with Parkinson’s disease to visit a health professional, so too do they need to advise a person with a mental illness to visit a trusted psychologist or psychiatrist and love and support them as they undergo treatment.
Matthew S. Stanford holds a doctoral degree in neuroscience from Baylor University and is a nationally recognized researcher and speaker in the area of aggressive and impulsive behavior, having published over fifty peer-reviewed articles in leading medical and scientific journals. In August 2003, he returned to Baylor University as a professor in the Psychology and Neuroscience department where he presently serves as the director of the Doctoral Program (Ph.D.) in Psychology. He is an active member of the American Psychological Association, Society for Psychophysiological Research, and the International Society of Research on Aggression.
This book is both fascinating and practical, providing spiritual insight into this most difficult of subjects. It is an absolutely fabulous reference tool for those with any interest in the area of mental health.
Author: Matthew S. Stanford, PhD
Publisher: Paternoster Publishing
Page count: 261