Tuesday, 6 February 2018
A recurring theme in the book is reflected in its title - that 'people with minimal training can provide real therapeutic benefit to the mentally ill'. Professor Thomas is concerned that DSM-5, the psychiatrist's diagnostic manual, has widened the definition of mental illness. Now, it seems, the behaviour is the disorder. More people are thus brought within the realm of treatment by the health profession, and this can send a discouraging and disempowering signal to ministers and churches - "this is a job for professionals." The truth is that both have complementary roles, and that wise, experienced, empathetic, 'ordinary' christians with good listening skills, who know the sufferer, can provide vital support to those with mental illnesses.
The subtitle of the book is 'A Biblical and Practical Approach', and hence begins with emphasizing the body-and-soul nature of man (mental illness is not just "all in the mind"), and the implications of the Fall on what we were made for. Professor Thomas roundly criticizes Freud's view of the unconscious mind, and provides a very clear assessment of the issue of personal responsibility in relation to mental illness ("Is it sickness or sin?"). He fascinatingly observes the effect of culture upon the manifestation of stress, eg. shell shock, before coming on to an overview of treatments - drugs, ECT, psychological approaches, and their effectiveness across the whole spectrum of mental illness. This is an informative guide and provides a good number of illustrative case studies drawn from many years of clinical practice.
Mental illness is difficult territory, but this book impresses as a go-to resource - not a slick read by any means, but giving an all-too-rare Christian perspective on a big subject.
Tackling Mental Illness Together by Alan Thomas, published by IVP, p/b £9.99