Mental Disorder & Religion

In this project, my collaborators and I focus on the relationship between mental disorder and religion. Nuanced, theologically-informed theories of mental disorder are scarce - and those that do exist are often incomplete or misleading and damaging. We are addressing these topics through integrated theoretical and empirical work. So far, we have conducted multiple empirical studies involving in-depth questionnaires and interviews. Some of these studies focused on how specific mental disorders and symptoms interact with facets of religious identity (e.g. 'my bipolar disorder increased my sense of God's presence', 'my experiences of delusions and hallucinations altered my belief in God'). Others focus on shedding light on harmful and misleading narratives of mental disorder in religious communities (e.g. 'depression is the result of sin or a lack of faith') and their impact on individuals who experience mental disorder - as well as how these narratives might be challenged by firsthand, individual accounts of experiences of mental disorder. Additionally, we are currently using this work to help develop practical resources (presentation and discussion materials, online resources and testimonials in conjunction with Kent County NAMI & NAMI FaithNet. This research has been generously supported by Hope College, Calvin University, NViTA, Blueprint 1543, and the John Templeton Foundation.

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Generated from short-answer participant responses on the negative impact of religious faith on their guilt

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Generated from short-answer participant responses on the positive impact of feelings of hopelessness on their religious faith 

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Generated from short-answer participant responses on the positive impact of feelings of depression on their religious faith 

Recent & Upcoming Presentations:
  • Faith & Mental Health Workshop, title TBD | University of Notre Dame (April 19th-23rd, 2023)
  • "Emotional Stability, Stigma, & Religion" | Calvin University (invited, date TBD)
  • "Mental Disorder & Religion"Hope Church (October 9th & 16th, 2022)
  • "Stigmatizing & Empowering Effects of Christian Narratives of Mental Disorder Non-ideal Philosophy of Religion Workshop, Notre Dame & Calvin (September 21st-25th, 2022)
  • Pathways to Hope Workshop | Invited Keynote, NAMI FaithNet (August 26th-27th, 2022)
  • "Mental Disorder & Psychological Stability in Christianity” | Calvin Symposium on Worship, 2022
  • "Mental Disorder & Religious Engagement" | New Visions in Theological Anthropology workshop, University of St. Andrews, 2022
  • “Narratives of Mental Disorder in Religious Communities” Princeton-Rutgers Philosophy of Religion Incubator Conference, 2022
  • “Mental Disorder & Religion” | The Reluctant Theologian podcast, 2022
  • "Mental Disorder & Religion" | Psychopathology & Religious Experience workshop, University of Leeds, 2022
  • “Empirical Work on Mental Disorder & Religious Cognition” Invited Presentation, Hillsdale College, 2022
  • “Identity, Narrative, and Meaning-making in Mental Disorder” Invited Presentation, University of Notre Dame,  Center for Philosophy of Religion, 2022
  • “Mental Disorder & Religion” | Church of the Savior, 2021
  • “Mental Disorder Transforms Faith”The Analytic Christian YouTube interview, 2021
  • “Mental Disorder Transforms Faith” Princeton-Rutgers Philosophy of Religion Incubator Conference, 2021

Recent Publications:
  • "The Over-spiritualization of Mental Disorder" Christian Scholar's Review (forthcoming) 
  • "Mental Disorder, Meaning-making, & Religious Cognition" TheoLogica (forthcoming)
  • "Narrative Engagement & Religious Meaning-making in Mental Disorder" | (under review)
Selected Recent Grants:
  • “Prosocial & Emotional Effects of Narratives: The Role of Perspective-taking Brain Networks" Duke University, ($26,684) 2022-2023 with Fernanda Pérez Gay Juarez, Samantha Fede, Rodrigo Diaz, and Laura Matthews

  • "Mental Disorder, Religious Engagement, & Emotional Stability” | New Visions in Theological Anthropology, ($26,209) 2022-2023 (principal investigator)

  • “Narratives of Mental Disorders in Religious Communities” Global Health Interdisciplinary summer research ($14,600) 2022 with Stephanie Pangborn and student collaborators Brooke Bennett & Emily Davidson

  • “Explorations of Mental Disorder, Neurodiversity, & Embodiment - and Connections with Religious
    Engagement” 
    | Towsley Research Scholars grant ($58,000) 2022-2025 (principal investigator)

  • "Mental Disorder & Psychological Stability in Christianity” Calvin Scholar-Teacher research grant ($17,896) 2022 with student collaborator Emme Simpson

  • “Transformative Narratives of Mental Disorder & Religion” Blueprint 1543 research grant ($14,644) 2021 

  • Hope College Nyenhuis research grants with student collaborators Christina Chiazza, Megan Jacobs, and Emma Passaglia ($18,664)

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Email me if you are
  • a church or faith-based organization interesting in learning more about this research, resources or presentation possibilities

  • interested in receiving more information about potentially participating in upcoming studies - to participate in our current study, click here!

  • a Hope College student interested in working with me on this project in upcoming semesters

  • interested in hearing more about this research or in potential collaboration!