During 2019, I am working on a sabbatical project entitled More Than Dutiful Love: God’s Healing within the Context of Families Affected by Mental Illness.
What is this project about?
More Than Dutiful Love 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 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.
Why I need your help …
I am now conducting interviews with siblings of people with mental illness and will be continuing to interview people through June of 2019.
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?
In this book, I will reflect on a variety of experiences and explore how traditional theological approaches to healing associate healing with curing. However, in the context of families impacted by mental illness, healing is more synonymous with presence. Intentional presence involves listening, prophetic truth telling, and walking with so that isolation, stigma, and shame no longer define the social realities of people with mental illness, their siblings, or their larger family.
Many thanks to the Louisville Institute for their support for this project.