The Pastoral Handbook of Mental Illness by Bloem

book past hand mental

Now this is one amazing, handy resource! Perhaps it had something to do with this being one of my weakest areas as a pastor, but this book is an outstanding overview and a tool that enables us to shepherd more effectively. Steve Bloem, who is a certified counselor who has also personally battled depression in his life, is a former pastor who can well balance the Bible and current medical understanding. While this book doesn’t completely take away the mystery of where sin ends and illness begins, it certainly guides us away from glib answers and hollow advice.

The book begins with a section explaining why a book of this type needed to be written. He describes mental illness as “a full-body disease” and introduces us to the medical aspect while also reminding us of the need for an effective pastoral theology. He often hammers against “one-size-fits-all” in ministering to people. He further reminds us of the essential shepherding nature of pastoring. Later in the section, he comforts by explaining that God is not mad at us. The point being, of course, that we should not be ashamed to admit or seek help for these type issues.

There’s a short list of characters in a mental health crisis, a listing of psychiatric terms, another of spiritual terms, and a short section on research and treatment. The balance of the book describes the major mental illnesses. The information is well presented and might even suggest the possibilities for determining someone’s problem sitting before you. Without a doubt, this book will not enable you to make a perfect diagnosis, but help you steer someone to the right help. Clearly, that’s what a pastor should do. Further, a pastor must remember that he will need the help of professional counselors in helping many people. Each listing gives a thorough definition of the illness, tells you the median age of onset, lists the risk factors, mentions general considerations, gives some extremely helpful tips for the pastor, and concludes with referral protocol.

The book ends with some common questions about mental illness, and several helpful appendices including diagnostic differentials, overview of medications (highly enlightening) and the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. That last appendix provides a scale that assigns a numeric value to life events and gives the scale at which the score makes you a high risk for illness. Again, it is amazing information.

I’ve always needed a book just like this, and I’m glad to have this successful volume to fill the void I had. It is a winner!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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