During 2019, I began working on a new book entitled Dutiful Love and Mental Health: Weaving a Social Fabric of Empowerment for Individuals and Families Affected by Serious Mental Illness.
What is this project about?
Dutiful Love and Mental Health addresses a major contemporary U.S. problem neglected by scholars of theology and religious leaders within congregations and fill a significant gap in the literature focusing on the intersection of theology, disability studies, and mental illness.
There are four main goals to the project:
• to share stories about how mental illness impacts a larger family system, particularly siblings;
• to discuss and analyze Christian ideas informing care for people with mental illness within a larger family system;
• to draw upon empirical data and examine the context for care in the US and explore how the financial and caregiving burden is placed upon individual families;
• and, to develop a constructive and liberating theological response to mental illness from a progressive feminist theological perspective.
You may also be interested in telling your own story …
Over the last year, I interviewed eighteen siblings regarding their experience of growing up in a family affected by serious mental illness. I am still in the process of conducting interviews with siblings of people with mental illness and will be continuing to interview until the book moves into the editing phase before publication. All identities of siblings interviewed will be kept confidential. If you are interested in sharing your story please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am interested the following themes: whether or not mental illness was openly discussed in your family, experiences of secondary stigmatization, the importance of religious ritual or the responses of religious communities to distress and isolation, etc.
During your initial interview you will be asked the following questions:
Please share your age or your age range.
How would you like to be named in the book? You can choose a pseudonym that can be used in public reporting on this project. All identities will be kept confidential.
How do you name or describe your gender and your own racial ethnic identity?
Explain the details of your experience of mental illness within your family and any information regarding that experience that you think is relevant to the study.
Did you or do you experience “secondary stigmatization” as a sibling/family member of someone with mental illness? If so, in what ways?
How did you first learn about mental illness in your family? Was it talked about openly or not?
How have you and your family planned for the care of persons with mental illness in your family? What obstacles have you or your family faced in arranging for care?
Has your experience of mental illness within your family impacted or shaped your faith and belief? If so, in what ways?
How has your experience of mental illness shaped your concept of community, especially within the church?
What theological concepts, specific religious practices, and/or rituals sustain you and are liberating through your experience of traveling with family members who have a mental illness?
Are there theological concepts, specific religious practices, and/or rituals that are problematic in light of your experience of mental illness in your family?
Do you think any circumstances would be different if your family member/s had suffered from a physical disease as opposed to a disease of the mind? Why or why not?
Many thanks to the Louisville Institute for their support for this project.
I am currently working on a video series intended to provide new educational resources for study in the PCUSA and other denominations concerning women, gender, movements for reform, and a variety of contextual theologies and to foster honest dialogue regarding gender discrimination and biases within the Reformed theological tradition. This series is tentatively entitled Expanding the Narrative and emerged out of a larger research project assessing the status of women on all levels of the PCUSA that incorporated both a sociological study, resulting in the Gender and Leadership Report (2016), and a theological consultation (held at McCormick Theological Seminary in 2016).
Expanding the Narrative will be in the format of the Theoacademy video series. Members of the production team include Landon Whitsitt, Executive of Synod of Mid-America, Beth Olker, Field Staff for the office of Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries (RE&WIM), and myself. The initial planning team also included Kerri Allen, a Reformed and Womanist scholar serving as a hospital chaplain, Matilde Moros, a Reformed theological social ethicist and Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Joanne Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative. Our work together on this project has extended over several years.
If you are interested in this project and would like to host a focus group to review a first draft of one of the videos sometime during May 2020 please contact me at email@example.com.