Book Review: ‘Tackling Mental Illness Together’ by Alan Thomas

CViE|15 May 2019

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The following book review was published in the latest (Spring 2019) CViE newsletter. It is reproduced here to mark Mental Health Awareness week that runs from 13th – 19th May.

We are also delighted to announce that Alan Thomas is booked to speak at the CViE National Conference 2019 to be held, if the Lord will, on Saturday 28th September in Caddington – full details can be found on the dedicated events page.

Mental Illness is constantly in the headlines at the moment, whether it be the effects of social media and gaming on children’s mental health or that mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. The statistics are quite frightening. The author of this book, Alan Thomas, is a professor of Psychiatry and works as a consultant in the NHS. He is also a church elder with preaching and pastoral responsibilities. This experience enables the author to give the reader access to a wealth of knowledge. This, coupled with his church responsibilities, enables him to provide useful help as to how we can help those in difficulty with mental health issues in our churches.

The book starts by setting the scene, highlighting how debilitating and terrible mental illnesses can be, and how we have no more power in ourselves to remove a mental illness than a physical one. He quotes a puritan minister who suffered many years with a severe depressive illness: ‘it is no more possible for people, where this disease comes with violence, to divert their thoughts than it is possible for a man….who has a broken arm or leg to walk and act as he used to before.’ 

The book is divided into nine chapters and is arranged to build an understanding of mental illness as you read through the book, but just as importantly, how we can help and support those suffering from these illnesses. However, it is also incredibly easy just to ‘dip’ into various sections that may be relevant to you or your loved ones, or sections that may particularly interest the reader.

Chapter one commences the book by explaining that although mental illness is considered to be an illness of the mind, it has a huge effect on the faculties of our body and vice versa. Each of the chapters are punctuated by real life, thought provoking experiences that the author has come across in his career. Moving through the chapters, the reader’s knowledge is enhanced, and maybe prejudices regarding mental illness shattered. The author provides illuminating information as we go through the chapters on: the implications of being created in God’s image, the differences between mental illness and bad behaviour, the Biblical teaching on the unconscious mind and its relevance to mental illness, stress and its impact both in the body and mind, the treatment and care of people with mental illness and how they have been challenged as immoral even by Christians, and the book concludes with extremely helpful advice on how we can and should help those with mental illness.

Although the mind is an extremely complex matter, and is an illustration of how fearfully and wonderfully made we are, this book is so accessible, readable and relevant, and with the real life examples, it enables the reader to quickly gain a basic knowledge and more importantly an understanding of how we can support those in distress. I highly recommend this book as a great resource, an easy read and presented in a way that will enable the reader together with mental health professionals to help tackle mental illness. 

Details: Tackling Mental Illness Together by Prof. Alan Thomas  IVP, 2017, ISBN 978-1-78359-559-4. Bible quotations are from the ESV. The book can be obtained from good bookshops and is stocked by the Christian Bookshop, Ossett.

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