Revealing a tension between the medical model of depression and the very different language of theology, this book explores how religious people and communities understand severe sadness, their coping mechanisms and their help-seeking behaviours.
Drawing from her study of practicing Catholics, contemplative monks and nuns, priests and laypeople studying theology, the author describes how symptoms that might otherwise be described as pathological and meet diagnostic criteria for a depressive disorder are considered by some religious individuals to be normal and valued experiences. She explains how sadness fits into the 'Dark Night of the Soul' narrative - an active transformation of emotional distress into an essential ingredient for self-reflection and spiritual growth - and how sadness with a recognised cause is seen to 'make sense', whereas sadness without a cause may be seen to warrant psychiatric consultation. The author also discusses the role of the clergy in cases of sadness and depression and their collaboration with medical professionals.
This is an insightful read for anyone with an interest in theology or mental health, including clergy, psychiatrists and psychologists.