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Posted September 12, 2012

Book: Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families
Robert H. Albers, William H. Meller, and Steven D. Thurbers, editors
Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2012, pp. 245

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Those who are afflicted as well as those who are adversely affected by mental illness often live lives of "quiet desperation" without recourse to appropriate assistance. Most caregivers confronted with these illnesses in the work of ministry have had no training or accurate information about mental illnesses, so frequently they do nothing, resulting in further harm and damage. Others may operate out of a theological system that does not adequately account for the nature, severity, or treatment of these illnesses.

In Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families, eighteen psychiatrists and pastoral theologians come together in an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort to ensure accuracy of information concerning the medical dimensions of mental illness, interpret these illnesses from a faith perspective, and make suggestions relative to effective ministry. Readers will learn how science and a faith tradition can not only coexist but work in tandem to alleviate the pain of the afflicted and affected.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Understanding Depression

It is essential for caregivers to understand depression, not only because it is so common and potentially serious, but also because clergy and lay caregivers are likely to be the first people sought out by depressed parishioners or their families. Multiple studies have shown that even with serious mental disorders, Americans are far more likely to approach clergy than psychiatrists or psychologists. Furthermore, since depression is the most common cause of suicide, it is only a matter of time before caregivers will be confronted by a suicidal person.


According to DSM-IV, a depressive episode exists if a person experiences five of nine criterion symptoms over at least a two-week period. These symptoms must include depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in almost all things (anhedonia). The other symptoms include, in an abbreviated form, change in appetite or weights, change in sleep, change in psychomotor behavior (agitation or retardation), fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, diminished ability to think or concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Many pastoral counselors keep a copy of this list in their desk, a practice that is strongly encouraged, not for diagnostic purposes, but to remind the caregiver of the stated criteria. It is clear that depression makes people miserable; saps them of energy; and ruins sleep, appetite, and even the ability to think clearly. It is an illness of intense misery.

Table of Contents:

1. Depression

2. Anxiety disorders

3. Psychotic disorders

4. Personality disorders

5. Substance-use disorders

6. Eating disorders

7. Autism

8. Acquired brain injury

9. Demential