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Mental illness within Christian communities may be subject to stigmatization, with some attributing it to demonic possession, lack of faith, personal sin, or other negative spiritual influences. Contrasting research, however, suggests a potentially supportive role, in that Christian faith and community may aid recovery from mental illness and/or act as a buffer against onset or relapse. The aim of this qualitative review was to systematically collate and characterize published qualitative evidence that explores the experiences of adult Christians with mental illness in relation to their faith and community. An electronic search of 15 databases was conducted, alongside the manual review of notable journals in the area and expert consultation. Twentytwo studies were included from 12,607 reviewed articles. A thematic synthesis identified four higher level themes: positive experiences of Christian communities (subthemes: congregational support; faith leaders and pastoral care), positive coping through Christian meaning systems (subthemes: religious meaningmaking; positive coping through relationship with God), negative experiences of Christian communities (subthemes: imposed spiritualization of mental illness; stigma, exclusion, and marginalization), difficulties navigating faith amid suffering (subthemes: dissonance: mental illness and faith; negative affect). This qualitative systematic review provides support to the vital importance of Christian faith and community for Christians who experience mental illness. It categorizes the idiographic and often diverse ways in which Christians living with mental illness may experience their faith and church community and explores how Christian religious systems and communities may function to support or hinder experiences of mental illness.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychology of Religion and Spirituality

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