Updated: Jul 7, 2020
Book review: The Good Book of Mental Hygiene by Gary E. Bell The discussion about mental illness within the church is almost nonexistent. It has only been in recent years where there has been an openness to dialogue about this taboo topic. Gary E. Bell, a licensed marriage and family therapist, cracks the door open a bit further on this topic in his book, The Good Book of Mental Hygiene.
The author addresses a multitude of diagnoses, mostly what he calls thought disorders in individual chapters. For example, he covers depression, addiction, grief, ADHD, along with many other disorders. In each chapter, he writes a letter, similar to how the Apostle Paul may have addressed his audience, often with a salutation and benediction. The author is creative in his approach by focusing on the reader, who may need to learn more about themselves. He gives a brief primer (one paragraph) of some of the major issues a person may be experiencing and how those symptoms can affect their daily life. His writing style is casual, comfortable to read for the layperson. One of my biggest concerns about Christianity and mental health is the misbelief that prayer and a closer relationship with Jesus will heal you. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the similar sentiment echoed throughout these pages. There are dozens of places, starting in the Introduction to the reader (vii), "All it takes is a willingness to open your heart to Jesus, trust, him, pray, have others pray for you, and make your recovery a testimony." The author's approach to clinical mental illness is too lax, and I am afraid, possibly, dangerous. Here is another example from the chapter about suicide, "You must get outside of the problem and begin consulting in a real way with a real commitment to Jesus. God can do anything as long as we seek and ask" (30). While help through Jesus continues to be a common theme, the author redeems himself in a couple of places.
In the chapter about bi-polar disorders, and schizotypal and paranoids, he encourages the reader to consider medication and see a mental health professional for counseling. Sadly he reverts to the healing power of Jesus, "It is hard to diagnose your personalities and even more difficult to medicate them. The only real way to work through your issues is for you to become reborn in the love of Christ." I don't believe that last statement as accurate. Many people in this world can cope or maintain regular life through mental illness, without Jesus. This book felt like a first draft, not ready for publication. Each chapter was only one and a half pages long, with very little depth to begin to understand a severe mental disservice, especially for clients and families in the trenches. While I appreciate the author's ability to communicate in a casual, easy to understand manner, he failed to include documented research that supports his ideas, or site any professional paper that would lead the reader to continue to do their research. The book is a monograph, about 48 pages. I am not sure of the author's intention if he uses this book as part of his speaking platform, but I would urge him and the publisher to reconsider and hold the presses on this one. Grade D **Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. 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.