Friday, January 30, 2015

Mental Ilness and the Born again Christian, my testimony


I consider my self fortunate. I never questioned God. I believed everything I was taught in church and Sunday school. I had no reason to believe the Bible was false . I saw people from all walks of life coming to church. I didn't know their hearts and they didn't know mine. It also took me awhile to figure out that not everyone thought like I did.

Most people heard the hell ,fire brimstone sermons but they also heard about Gods love for his people. My brain stopped at the hell , fire and brimstone and I didn't hear another word being preached after that I would sit and obsess over the negative things I heard and I couldn't get the imagines out of my head. I would have nightmares and I lived in a constant state of anxiety and dread. As I looked around I didn't know why people were smiling and happy. Had they not just heard the horrible stories I had just heard. Again it was not until years later that because my brain is wired the way it is I tend to ruminate on the negative, obsess over the horrors that could be.

This not what God meant for me. I have an illness that is called depression. I have been taking anti depressants for the last 23 years. I don't think this way anymore . Am I still a pessimist , yes but I prefer the term "realist;"  I probably still worry more than the average person but my thoughts are no longer irrational or obsessive in nature. I can hear the negative and the positive side of things. My only reason for writing is that I know there are adults ,teenagers and children who are suffering as I did. You don't have to leave your religion to find peace you just have to recognize that you have a disease of the brain. There is treatment for the disease.

 I know that the stigma in churches will keep people from getting help or worse yet cause people to leave the church. According to the world health organization EVERY 40 SECONDS SOMEONE IN THE WORLD DIES OF SUICIDE. Depression ranks at number 2 as a global cause of disability. One of the commands Christians are called to do is to reach the ends of the earth with the good news of Christ. This is difficult to do if the person sitting next to us can't hear the good part of the gospel and worse yet is too uncomfortable to stay in the church to search for the truth.
This blog  was done by Heidi Strater, a guest blogger.
  "This is a candid and spirit affirming story of a family's personal struggle, not only with mental illness, but also in finding where they fit into the body of Christ and His ministry. Considering that 10% of the world's adult population suffer from some form of mental illness, this book could well be required reading for pastors, elders, and Christian counselors or for anyone who is called to minister with understanding and unbiased care. The book is solidly based on a scriptural foundation with ample clinical information to appeal to the lay person or anyone in a counseling capacity. Informative, honest and helpful, this work shatters the old stigmas and perceptions of mental illness and depression. It is well written with enough heart and hope to balance the seriousness of the subject. Interesting reading. (Sandra Thayer Author's Choice Reviews 2005-12-01)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

. What is separation anxiety, part 1?

In some ways, there is something worse than our own depression; it is our children having it. I have spoken in the past of one of our sons and his severe panic and depression. Having to watch him go through all the pain that is involved in this disease has proven to be a severe trial for Robyn and me. He was not the first of our children to have a depression/panic disorder. 
Our daughter, Lindsay, who has been in heaven for about fourteen years now, was diagnosed with separation anxiety and depression when she was in the fourth grade. I was a pastor in Kansas and the severity of her symptoms scared us. Fortunately I had training and experience because I  had worked as a Children's therapist and had seen this in others.  I used behavior management and also had her see a psychiatrist in Topeka, Kansas. The psychiatrist put her on Imipramine (an old tricyclic antidepressant) and after about ten days we noticed a lessening of her symptoms).  In God's providence, I was a pastor and my office was next to our parsonage and our parsonage was across the street from the school.  Lindsay was gradually urged to go to school for short periods of time.  At one point I was allowed to sit in her fourth grade class. The kids did not mind and they said that they had wondered what the pastor did all week anyway since he only worked on Sundays.
The times I spent with her in class began to be shorter.  After I felt she was well enough for me to leave her in school alone, we began the second segment of our strategy. Robyn was a homemaker and Lindsay was permitted (after some heavy persuasion with the principal) to come home every hour-just to check in and see Robyn. It didn't take long for Lindsay to be reassured that she was home and safe and everything was fine. She would run back to her classroom and repeat the process several times each day. After a while, she stayed longer and longer and her medication did its work, too.  Eventually she was able to return to school without behavioral intervention.  She remained on her medication mostly for the rest of her life. She was killed at nineteen and was always timid and slightly panicky. Now, we know she is at perfect rest with the Lord. For those of you who are facing this or have an interest in separation anxiety, I list the criteria from the DSM V. This is a very real illness.

What are the Diagnostic Criteria for Separation Anxiety?
A. Developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by at least three of the following:

1. Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from
       home or from major attachment figures.
2. Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about 
       possible harm to them, such as illness, injury, disasters, or death.
3. Persistent and excessive worry about experiencing an untoward event (e.g.
        getting lost, being kidnapped, having an accident, becoming ill) that causes 
       separation from a major attachment figure.
4. Persistent  reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home to school,  to work
        or elsewhere because  of fear of separation .
5. Persistent  and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without 
       major attachment figures at home or in other settings.
6. Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep 
       without being near a major attachment figure.
7. Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation.
8. Repeated  complaints of physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, stomach aches, 
      nausea, vomiting) when  separating from major attachment figures occurs 
      or is anticipated.
B.The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, lasting at least four weeks in 
     children and adolescents and  typically six months or more in adults.
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, 
     academic, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as
     refusing to leave home because of excessive resistance to change as in autism 
     spectrum disorder; delusions or hallucinations concerning separation in
     psychotic disorders; refusal to go outside without a trusted companion as 
     in agoraphobia; worries about ill health or other harm befalling significant others
     as in generalized anxiety disorder.

Friday, January 23, 2015

When I felt like my brain was broken. Doctor, please try harder!

When I am in a depressive episode it feels like my brain is broken. My first episode (also called age of onset) was when I was twenty nine years old. It lasted a long time and its intensity went from severe to moderate. The year was 1985. My psychiatrist was a retired medical director of a psychiatric hospital. He graciously agreed to see me as an outpatient because I was an ordained pastor.

Doctors don't also give right advice.

On one of our visits, I mentioned to my psychiatrist that my mind still had not cleared, that it felt like there was a cloud over it. I also lamented that I was still depressed. His response was, Oh, medications don’t do everything, getting healed involves a lot more than pills. His thinking that a medication only worked partially was painful for me to hear, it did not make sense. I knew how my mind worked before it was broken. It was different and I was afraid it would never be the same. Since medication helped me part of the way, I desired full relief in concrete terms not abstract ones.

Because of my psychiatrist's age, (he was in his 70’s) and because this was 1985, he was steeped in Freudian psychological thought. At one point he talked about the little boy deep down inside me. He also told Robyn and me some of the old treatments for depression. He said that they use to believe that helping depressed people expressing their deep seated anger would help them get over their depression.  This scared me. He told me that one of the strategies used in days gone by was to have depressed people scrubbing the grout between bathroom tiles with a toothbrush, until they were very mad. 
I did not believe him but I was shaken. Anger turned inward is the hallmark of Freudian and Neo-Freudian psychology. Its effect on the overall treatment of depression is discussed in our book, Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It, Kregel Publications. It is needless to say that these interpretations only made things worse.

Antidepressants Are Poison
I fired my former doctor who had called antidepressants poison. Robyn and I were living in Scranton PA at the time so I made use of public services offered at the Scranton Counseling Center. At this time I was working two jobs and going to Marywood Graduate School of Social Work.

Help from the literature

In my studies for my Master of Social Work and I prepared to write a fifty page discourse on the treatment of mental illness in our time (1985). In my research for the paper, I studied many views of mental illness. God, in His loving providence, helped me find an article, The Challenge of Chronic Depressions by Hagisop Askidal, M.D. 

It has to be stress!

When I told my new doctor that I was still depressed he said, "you are under very much stress, I think this is your problem." I remonstrated, "I cannot accept what you are saying." I told him about the above article and what it said about why people did not receive adequate treatment for depression.The reasons for this were, perhaps the doctor did not raise the medication dosage high enough or did not try a combination of antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
Thankfully, my new psychiatrist decided to give it a try. I was wholly better in two weeks. I could have gone on for a number of years mistreated and suffering needlessly if I had not pushed the envelope.

Today psychiatrists have many tools by which you can be symptom free. Of course, medicine will not help you if you recently lost your girl friend or failed a couple of tests at school. Emotional upheaval and external stresses are not the same as clinical depression. Please consider learning about depression and its treatment. One resource, of course, that we recommend is our book, Broken Minds, Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It. You can find some more information and help by visiting the link below.
  "This is a candid and spirit affirming story of a family's personal struggle, not only with mental illness, but also in finding where they fit into the body of Christ and His ministry. Considering that 10% of the world's adult population suffer from some form of mental illness, this book could well be required reading for pastors, elders, and Christian counselors or for anyone who is called to minister with understanding and unbiased care. The book is solidly based on a scriptural foundation with ample clinical information to appeal to the lay person or anyone in a counseling capacity. Informative, honest and helpful, this work shatters the old stigmas and perceptions of mental illness and depression. It is well written with enough heart and hope to balance the seriousness of the subject. Interesting reading. (Sandra Thayer Author's Choice Reviews 2005-12-01)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

No longer behind the curve: Black churches address mental illness
 Aug 17, 2014 | RNS News

© Religion News Service

Tamara Warren Chinyani, an instructor with the “Mental Health First Aid” program, led a session at an African-American church in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 2, 2014, about signs and symptoms of mental illness. Photo courtesy of Tamara Warren Chinyani.
Tamara Warren Chinyani

Tamara Warren Chinyani, an instructor with the “Mental Health First Aid” program, led a session at an African-American church in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 2,2014, about signs and symptoms of mental illness.i.

 Robyn Williams death brought new awareness to suicide.
The death of beloved comedian Robin Williams has heightened awareness of suicide and its relationship to mental health problems. But many African-American churches quietly began educating members on the issue well before the Oscar winner’s death.

“A lot of times in the past, African-Americans have viewed severe depression and other mental illnesses as indicating a spiritual weakness,” said Tamara Warren Chinyani, an instructor with the “Mental Health First Aid” program. “We’re changing that paradigm around.”

NCBH started program in 2008 but focus among African- American Churches began in 2014.
The National Council for Behavioral Health introduced the program in the U.S. in 2008, with the goal of helping people learn how to spot signs and symptoms of mental illness. The program began its focus on African-American churches this year.
African-Americans are 20 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to report instances of serious psychological stress, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. And while more white teens commit suicide than their black counterparts, more African-American teens (8.3 percent) attempted suicide than their white peers (6.2 percent).

Bishop Young and his wife, Dianne co-founded a conference on suicide
Some of the people leading the effort to build awareness about mental illness have seen its most tragic consequences up close. Bishop William Young and his wife, Pastor Dianne Young, co-founded the National Suicide and the Black Church Conference about a decade ago after a member of their Memphis, Tenn., congregation shot and killed herself under a large cross on the church grounds. Fifty attended the first biennial meeting and about 500 attended the 2013 gathering, he said. “We’ve been silent on issues that have been right before us all the time,” said William Young. “Because of our mainly not having knowledge of these different types of issues we have avoided it.”

Couple also started Emotional Fitness Centers in ten churches in Tennessee
In addition to the conference, the couple started “Emotional Fitness Centers” at 10 churches in Tennessee, in hopes they will increase access to services and reduce the stigma associated with therapeutic care. “People will come to the church when they won’t go to a mental health center,” said the bishop, who attended a July launch of a broader new initiative called the Mental Health and Faith Community Partnership.
 Dianne Young, the centers’ director, said 722 people were screened during the most recent fiscal year and 300 followed through with the plans they were given, some of which included hospitalization.

Hogg Foundation will begin 850,000 grant program to educate African-American Churches.
  In Texas, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health will begin an $850,000 grant program in October that will help 10 African-American churches educate congregants about mental health for the next three years. Program Officer Vicky Coffee-Fletcher said the foundation received an “overwhelming response” to the grant announcement.

African-American leaders excited about helping the mentally ill.
“To an increasing degree, African-American faith-based leaders are no longer content with being behind the curve on mental health issues,” she said. “Pastors are excited about the chance to spread awareness about mental health in a way that capitalizes on their strengths as standard bearers in the community.”

Experts hesitant to pursue medical and mental assistance.
Experts say many African-Americans have long been hesitant to pursue medical and mental assistance because of fears they may be discriminated against and because of recollections of notorious experiments on unsuspecting black men in the mid-1900s. But the Rev. Frankey Grayton of Edgewood Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., which hosted Warren Chinyani’s recent training session, said it’s time for congregants and clergy to acknowledge their need to learn more and, when necessary, seek help.
“Quite frankly, we felt unprepared,” said Grayton, who learned of the training from another pastor who had participated. “But I don’t think that we as a community can ignore it.”

Action Plan for pastor's congregation
Now, his congregation is developing an action plan, which will range from offering in-house counseling to the bereaved, divorced and unemployed to determining when they need to call 911 or otherwise seek professional help. Before she started working directly with congregations, Warren Chinyani trained about 100 clergy and lay people in two sessions last year sponsored by the Maryland affiliate of Volunteers of America.
The consultant, who used to attend a church in Michigan where a fellow member committed suicide about a decade ago, said she hopes more African-American congregations will step up to a greater role on mental illness, just as many have recently on HIV/AIDS where they’ve started clinics, health fairs and counseling.
As she shows videos of people who have recovered and supervises role-playing exercises to foster openness about mental health, she hopes the training will become as common as CPR. “We want just as many people who are certified in CPR to become knowledgeable and equipped with the tools and skills necessary to help someone who may be experiencing a mental health crisis,” she said.

Robyn and Steve Bloem co-founded Heartfelt Counseling Ministries ten yeas ago.
We have a comprehensive program that trains churches in reaching and keeping the mentally ill. Here are some of our other blogs that you may want to read to better understand our ministry.

Ask us about our CAMI (Christians Afflicted with Mental Illness) Support groups.  We have groups in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Boca Raton Florida.  We are involved with starting more.  Please pray for us!

Monday, January 19, 2015


As I sit reading the bible this morning, I am struck again by God's care and provision for poor: Tabitha was known for this, Cornelius was told; "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." There are so many scriptures telling us to care for the poor, but if we don't want to disturb the rich and clean in our "bedroom communities" with the poor and not-so-clean, we are terribly guilty of showing favoritism and dishonoring the Name of the LORD. Faith without works is a dead faith.
Robyn Bloem

Isaiah 58:6,7; Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?  "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh (NASB)?

     Psalm 41:1-3To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David: Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health (ESV)

Robyn Bloem is the Co-founder of Heartfelt Counseling Ministries.
Heartfelt has been helping the poor for 11 years. We never turn anyone away because of lack of finances on their part.  Our counseling costs are supplemented by Christians and churches who believe in helping the poor and the mentally ill.
If you would like to give to ur our 501(c) Nonprofit you can go to our website.  If you give $50.00 or more we will send you our signed book, Broken Minds Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It.


This book is vitally important to our understanding of the mechanics of depression and mental illness. After reading a plethora of books on the subject over the years, this is the ONE book that I am excited to recommend, and I highly recommend it.

"Broken Minds" is practical, sensitive, compassionate, and very biblically sound. In fact, it should be required reading for every pastor, elder, ministry leader, counselor, or person who is wrestling with the effects of depression, PTSD, OCD, SAD, bipolar, panic disorder, and so much more. Having suffered clinical depression more than once in my life, I'm amazed at the volume of wisdom contained here. It's like five books in one. I believe God will use this book to broaden the church's understanding, dispel the stigmas, and to literally save people's lives. "...blessed is the church that has access to pastoral staff who understand both theology and the dynamics of major mental illness. The care of souls requires balance and discernment" Vicki Gains).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pray for the Persecuted Church. Here are some Biblical helps to prayer.

From the Voice of Martyrs

1. Pray that believers will stand firm in their faith (1 Peter 5:8-10).   
2. Pray that they will not fear but trust God (Rev:2:10).
3. Pray that they would not seek to retaliate, but entrust themselves
   to Him who judges justly ( 1 Peter 2:23).
4. Pray that they will not repay evil for evil but will seek to live in peace
   with everyone (Romans 12:17-18).
5. Pray that they will not take revenge, but leave that completely with
    God (Romans 12:17-18).
6. Pray that they will be enabled to rejoice, even in suffering (1 Peter 4:12,13)
7.Pray that they will forgive those who persecute them (Luke 23:34, Colossians 3:13).
8. Pray that they would be able to actually love their enemies (Matthew  5:43-44).           
9. Pray that they will bless those who have persecuted them (Romans 12:14,21).   
10.Pray that they will persevere under tribulation (Heb. 10:32-39).11.
11.Pray that they will trust God to enable them to proclaim the gospel even 
    when they are suffering(2 Timothy 4:16-18).
12. Pray that will keep their eyes on Jesus Christ, persevere and not grow
     weary or lose heart (Hebrew 12:1-3).
13. Pray that will rely on the Lord's strength and not their own (2 Corinthians 1:9).
14. Pray that they would be protected from the evil one (John 17:5). 

Familiarize yourself with persecution that is happening in the world today. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Open Letter to a Dad caught Looking at Pornography.

Dear Dad,
I want to let you know first of all that I love you and forgive you for what this has done in my life. I also wanted to let you know exactly what your porn use has done to my life. You may think that this effects only you, or even your and mom’s relationship. But it has had a profound impact on me and all of my siblings as well.

I found your porn on the computer somewhere around the age of 12 or so, just when I was starting to become a young woman. First of all, it seemed very hypocritical to me that you were trying to teach me the value of what to let into my mind in terms of movies, yet here you were entertaining your mind with this junk on a regular basis. Your talks to me about being careful with what I watched meant virtually nothing.
Because of pornography, I was aware that mom was not the only woman you were looking at. I became acutely aware of your wandering eye when we were out and about. This taught me that all men have a wandering eye and can’t be trusted. I learned to distrust and even dislike men for the way they perceived women in this way.

As far as modesty goes, you tried to talk with me about how my dress affects those around me and how I should value myself for what I am on the inside. Your actions however told me that I would only ever truly be beautiful and accepted if I looked like the women on magazine covers or in porn. Your talks with me meant nothing and, in fact, just made me angry.

As I grew older, I only had this message reinforced by the culture we live in. That beauty is something that can only be achieved if you look like “them.” I also learned to trust you less and less as what you told me didn’t line up with what you did. I wondered more and more if I would ever find a man who would accept me and love me for me and not just a pretty face.

When I had friends over, I wondered how you perceived them. Did you see them as my friends, or did you see them as a pretty face in one of your fantasies? No girl should ever have to wonder that about the man who is supposed to be protecting her and other women in her life.

     I did meet a man. One of the first things I asked him about was his struggle with pornography. I’m thankful to God that it is something that hasn’t had a grip on his life. We still have had struggles because of the deep-rooted distrust in my heart for men. Yes, your porn watching has affected my relationship with my husband years later.

If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: Porn didn’t just affect your life; it affected everyone around you in ways I don’t think you can ever realize. It still affects me to this day as I realize the hold that it has on our society. I dread the day when I have to talk with my sweet little boy about pornography and its far-reaching greedy hands. When I tell him about how pornography, like most sins, affects far more than just us.
Like, I said, I have forgiven you. I am so thankful for the work that God has done in my life in this area. It is an area that I still struggle with from time to time, but I am thankful for God’s grace and also my husband’s. I do pray that you are past this and that the many men who struggle with this will have their eyes opened.
Love, Your Daughter

*This has been posted anonymously due to the nature of the topic.* 

Rev. Steve Bloem is a pastoral, clinical counselor.  He counsels persons who are addicted to pornography and also helps people who suffer from mental illness and depression.
Our web site is 

To learn more about our book please go to: