‘Joy Interrupted’ weaves together mental health and prayer

‘Joy Interrupted’ weaves together mental health and prayer

Retired Uniting Church Minister, poet and theologian, Rev. Geoffrey Lilburne launched his book Joy Interrupted: A Memoir of Depression and Prayer at the United Theological College on 29 May.

Rev. Doug Purnell OAM and Rev. Dr Peter Powel, who have both been Rev. Lilburne’s friends and colleagues over the years, were guest speakers at the launch.

Joy Interrupted details a very personal life story of Rev. Lilburne’s experience with depression through his success and failures of his personal life and profession while grappling with his faith.  

Rev. Purnell OAM described Rev. Lilburne’s book as a narrative poem that “is bookended with this lovely metaphor.”

“In your book, there is a struggle to choose life and sometimes, until I read your book, I had thought that the instantaneous [answer was] ‘I choose life.’”

“That’s what I thought and your book says no, it’s not. It is a lifelong struggle. And each day and morning you get up. Each time you feel the depression, each time something is not working right, you have to choose again. Choose life.”

When Rev. Dr Peter Powell took the stage he shared how reading Joy Interrupted reminded him of his own experience of mental illness. He also commended Rev. Lilburne for bringing together science, medicine and prayer in the context of mental health through this new book.

“There is this great disconnect between faith and church and mental health,” said Rev. Dr Powell who has a background in Psychology.

“Geoff you are calling us to a different framework that is not just relied on the medical model but joins the medical model along with other things that could help when people are challenged in their lives.”

Rev. Lilburne’s book adds to the growing discussion around men and mental health issues. Last month Beyond Blue’s Beyond the Emergency Report found that suicidal behaviour among men could be up to three times higher than some estimates. The report also found that Australian men experience high rates of mental health issues but are often hesitant to seek help.

At his book launch, Rev. Lilburne said there is a need for a more holistic approach for mental health treatments.   

“I’m calling for a much more engaged theological understanding of these disciplines so that we can begin to breakdown the false narratives that have been erected.

“Really what I am doing in this book is trying to weave together how prayer and depression intersect. And my starting point is that the really depressed person can’t pray.

“God has ceased to exist for them and it [prayer] becomes a very artificial exercise. So part of the therapy –part of what we say is that you must pray for this person because it’s very difficult for them to pray for themselves at the moment.”

Rev. Lilburne explained that one of the things he discovered while writing this book was that he felt happiest when he was in touch fully with his spirituality.

Joy Interrupted is available for sale via Coventry Press.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues you can contact Lifeline via their website or on 13 11 14

Melissa Stewart

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