Madness and Grace: A Practical Guide for Pastoral Care and Serious Mental Illness
Research tells us that when most people suffer from a mental health crisis, the first person they turn to for help is not a physician, a psychiatrist, or a social worker, but a pastor, a priest, or a minister. In other words, a leader in their church. Unfortunately, many church leaders are not trained to recognize mental illness and don’t know when to refer someone to a mental health professional. The consequence—unintended yet tragic—is continued and unnecessary suffering.
Madness and Grace is a comprehensive guide for church ministry to alleviate this situation. Written by Dr. Matthew Stanford, the book is carefully constructed to help build competency in detecting a wide spectrum of mental disorders, such as knowing when a person is contemplating suicide based on telltale patterns of speech. It also explodes common discriminatory myths that stigmatize people with mental illness, such as the myth that they are more prone to violence than others.
Dr. Stanford has treated clients throughout his career who were afflicted with all manner of mental disorders. In Madness and Grace, he takes the full extent of his experience and makes it accessible and actionable for the lay reader. He begins by explaining what constitutes a mental illness and how these disorders are classified according to science. He next teaches how to notice the presence of a mental illness by listening carefully to phraseology, observing behavior, and asking discerning questions. He goes on to discuss methods of treatment, common religious concerns about mental health, and ways church communities can support people on the road to recovery.
As a Christian, Dr. Stanford wants his fellow believers to know that acknowledging and seeking help for a mental illness is not a sign of weak faith. That’s why, in addition to sharing his medical expertise with church leaders, he commends pertinent biblical passages that underscore God’s concern for our mental wellbeing. These passages provide strength and comfort as complements to clinically-derived treatment and are essential to Dr. Stanford’s approach. “When working with those in severe psychological distress,” he writes, “compassion and grace are always the first line of pastoral care.”