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Review: The Pastoral Handbook of Mental Illness

Kregel Ministry, 2018.
The realities of mental illness are not excluded from the life of the Church, and, unfortunately, discussion of mental illness is often a taboo subject in many churches. Moreover, many ministers are unsure of how to minister to the mentally ill within their own congregation, with such education taking little priority in seminary curriculum. Thus, Steve Bloem's The Pastoral Handbook of Mental Illness (Kregel Ministry, 2018) is a fantastic resource for the basics on mental illness and its implications for the Church.

There are not many books quite like this one. Designed for pastors and other church leaders, The Pastoral Handbook of Mental Illness first makes a biblical case for mental illness, dispelling its common myths and arguing for its placement within the canon of pastoral care. Bloem then surveys the major mental illnesses and suicide. Each illness is given a psychological/scientific background, treatment options, tips for the pastor, and referral options. Especially useful is the appendix, which contains diagnostic and substance information simplified for the non-psychologist.

This book is a fantastic resource for pastors, providing just the right amount of information to get a grip on understanding the mentally ill parishioner who arrives in the pastor's office. I found the "tips for the pastor" to be a handy section on some launching pads for conversation. The handbook is a short book, designed to be used as a reference for quick study. The brief introductions to the major mental illnesses are worth a read to help understand the scope of mental illness that exists in the world and, consequently, in the Church. I did feel, however, that some of the biblical evidence was proof-texted and lacked some of the finer nuances of exegesis. Nevertheless, Bloem writes from the perspective of a trained counselor who struggled with depression, and his passion is evident throughout his book. I highly recommend this text to those who are interested in the realities and pastoral implications of mental illness.

Buy this book

(My thanks is given to Kregel for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)

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