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  • Writer's pictureDr. James Coffield

Caring for the Mentally Ill

Another article from the February Tabletalk I read yesterday before worship services is the uniquely titled one linked above. Based on the title I wasn’t sure what this article was about – but I quickly learned: mental illness – a subject not spoken of much in the church. And that is one of the points of this author. Dr.J.Coffield wants the church to understand better the nature and scope of mental illness, and to care better for those in her midst who suffer from this affliction.

And Dr.Coffield not only deals with this subject through his teaching responsibilities (see the brief “bio” below); he also deals with it personally as a father of an autistic child. I was informed and convicted by what he wrote, and I hope you will be as well. You will find the full article at the link above; here are a few paragraphs from it to get you started:

ENGAGE To engage is to address the topic of mental illness publicly. Twenty-five percent of all individuals will have a depressive episode during their lifetime—this should be addressed during teaching and church programs. It is sometimes easier to come into the church and admit a crime than to carry the stigma of chronic depression, schizophrenia, or another mental disorder. In surveys, the church has about the same rate of use of psychotropic medications as the general population. We are not addressing here the possible overuse of prescription drugs or the tendency to too quickly label and diagnose individuals, which are important issues. The point is that we do not have the option to ignore and not engage those who suffer from mental illness…. GRACE AND SUPPORT Lastly, the church must be a place of hope and refuge for these individuals, not a place of shame and stigma. These individuals tend to feel alone and unwanted. Let our churches become places that offer hope. Often individuals indicate that church is a place where they hide their addictions and struggles, yet it must become a place of repentance and growth. Disorders should not be celebrated, yet people suffering from mental illness can and should be encouraged, accepted, challenged, and loved within the body of Christ.

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