Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Christian Studies) - MA (CSt)

Department

Theology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Marcia Webb, M.Div., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology

Keywords

mental illness, Sunday school, curricula, Free Methodist Church, storytelling, disability studies, body of Christ

Abstract

This thesis explores perceptions and attitudes toward mental illness in the church through a literature review of existing research in psychology, supported by a qualitative study of participants in a Sunday School series on mental illness. The four-week course was taught in a class of adults in their twenties and thirties in a Free Methodist church. The results from the study largely support the empirical literature that suggests the church holds primarily negative perceptions and attitudes toward mental illness and the persons it affects. However, the study also suggested that education may encourage self-analysis of negative attitudes and behaviors toward mental illness and change existing perceptions. In addition, the study showed that storytelling was the most impactful means of changing perceptions and alleviating the stigma surrounding mental illness. The literature review and the qualitative study were used to develop a preliminary theological approach to mental illness. Building on the framework of disability studies, this thesis discusses mental illness through exploring the concept of the stranger, the nature of humanness, and the body of Christ as an interdependent community that becomes a place of belonging for persons with mental illness.

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