Mental Health & the Gospel Community, the second in the Good News for Bruised Reeds series, continues Graceworks’ effort to “[open] up conversations among those who are struggling, those who care for them, and those in the gospel community who want to be better Christ lights to this community”. The first volume, reviewed in the September 2018 issue of Methodist Message, gave encouragement to those who struggle with same-sex attraction, and challenged the Church and community to provide them a safe space.
This book highlights that about one in seven Singaporeans experiences a mental disorder in their lifetime. This means that among the Church, thousands are statistically likely to be suffering, and often silently, as a large proportion may not seek help.
The word “stigma” is used often throughout the book by its contributors, who have courageously come out to share personal experiences of suffering from mental illnesses or who have walked with those who have. The writers relate how employment prospects have been affected, how they have lost friends, as well as how they have been reprimanded and told to “snap out of it”, to “change their perspective” or to pray away their ailments. These comments, shared one contributor, are “heart-breaking. They have loaded me with more guilt and confusion, rather than helping me overcome depression.” Stigma perpetuates a sense of shame, making it harder for sufferers to seek help, sometimes leading to fatal outcomes.
The writers advocate “a balance of science and faith” in supporting those with mental illness—“Medicines work because they function based on the laws of science that the Lord has put in place to run the universe”. One contributor, a medical doctor who suffers from depression, likens the need for medication for mental disorders to that for diabetes or hypertension.
The book underscores the need for the Church to show grace to those struggling with mental illness. “Comfort,” says one contributor, “is never wrong. There is always a place for words of care, support, encouragement, reminders of God’s love. […] Gently, with words of love, walk with [those who suffer] back to the light.”
Sheri Goh is the editor of Methodist Message.
Book cover visual courtesy of Graceworks Pte Ltd