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Christians and Mental Illness: A Letter From the Editor

Dear brothers in the ministry,

I want to share with you four items that have caught my attention: two quite recently and two others going back a year or so. Altogether, they illustrate the growing awareness of mental illness in the United States today.

The first two concepts were reported in articles I read just this week in a local daily newspaper.

The first article was titled “The mind games behind social media,” with the subtitle “Chemical released in brain similar to satisfaction with drugs, alcohol, gambling.” It cites a 2011 landmark study conducted by Columbia University that notes the addictive aspects of heavy social media use, further explaining that heavy use may lead to other addictive behaviors. The article also refers to more recent studies that demonstrate correlations between social media use by teens and depression. The article concludes about teens, “The more time spent on social media equals more depression.”

The second news article reported about a large public high school in the area where I live. The administrators have made the decision to give space in the school for two professional counseling agencies to provide services for students beyond what the school staff itself provides.

The third item that caught my attention happened last summer. I asked the manager of our NPH store, who also has been present at many of the NPH displays at WELS teachers’ conferences, “What kind of materials do you hear our teachers especially asking for?” Without hesitating, she said, “They are asking about what we have that can help them with students who are struggling with depression and anxiety.”

Lastly, during a brief discussion at a pastors’ conference I attended last year, a few pastors made comments that they are noticing more instances of members who are struggling with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)—and not only military veterans who have served in combat areas but police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and others in their congregations.

It’s probably safe for me to assume that you may have similar observations. From God’s Word we know that struggling with mental health issues is one of the sad aspects of living in our fallen world. And from God’s Word we are also blessed to know and to be able to share with others the gospel message, which gives comfort and hope in Christ that completely transcend all the evils and ills that make this world what Luther called a “vale of tears.”

Having said that, I’m sure you agree with me that we who minister to people affected in some way by mental illness may find it helpful to have more in-depth knowledge of mental illness and its professional treatment than what we may find only in brief articles in newspapers or online.

Christian-Guide-to-Mental-IllnessFor that reason, in 2016, NPH was pleased to publish the first volume of A Christian Guide to Mental Illness, subtitled Recognizing Mental Illness in the Church and School. The author, Dr. Stephen Saunders, is a Ph.D. professor of psychology at Marquette University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He writes not only with professional expertise but also with a sound biblical Lutheran worldview.

Dr. Saunders has now completed writing the second volume, subtitled Helping Christians Obtain Treatment for Mental Illness, in this two-volume set. Volume 2 provides a detailed description of how the mental health services system works (which is especially helpful for those with little firsthand experience with the mental health profession). This volume also includes seven chapters on “providing practical assistance to persons with mental illness.” I think you will find these chapters especially to be directly applicable to your ministries.

NPH is now in the process of bringing Dr. Saunders’ second volume into print. Click here to read a preview from the author. To learn more about Volume 1, click here.

May God bless you in your ministry of bringing Christ’s comfort to “those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

With you in Christ,

Curtis Jahn
Vice President of Publishing Services
Professional Books Editor
Northwestern Publishing House