In the Fellowship of His Suffering: A Theological Interpretation of Mental Illness – A Focus on ‘Schizophrenia’

By Elahe Hessamfar

A thoughtful exploration of the theological significance of schizophrenia, drawing on biblical insight for a Christian approach to the care of the mentally ill.

ISBN: 9780718893828


Schizophrenia is often considered one of the most destructive forms of mental illness. Elahe Hessamfar’s personal experience with her daughter’s illness has led her to ask some pressing and significant questions about the cause and nature of schizophrenia and the Church’s role in its treatment.

With a candid and revealing look at the history of mental illness, In the Fellowship of His Suffering describes schizophrenia as a variation of human expression. Hessamfar uses a deeply theological rather than pathological approach to interpret the schizophrenic experience and the effect it has on both the patients and their families. Effectively drawing on the Bible as a source of knowledge for understanding mental illness, she offers a reflective yet innovative view of whether the Church could or should intervene in such encounters and what such an intervention might look like.

Hessamfar’s comprehensive work will provoke powerful responses from anyone interested in the prominent social issue of mental illness. Her portrayal of the debate concerning the treatment of “insanity”, either pastorally or medically, will enthral readers, be they Christians, medical students or those in the field of psychiatry and social sciences.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationLPOD

About the Author

Elahe Hessamfar is a former business executive and has a PhD in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. She has an MA in Biblical Studies from the Reformed Theological Seminary, an MS in Computer Science from the George Washington University and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas.


Foreword by John Swinton


1. A Theological Anthropology
2. The Historical Contexts of Psychiatry and Mental Illness
3. A Theology of Illness
4. A Path Forward: Healing Together
5. Conclusion

Subject Index
Scripture Index


Endorsements and Reviews

A truly remarkable and unforgettable book. By narrating life with her daughter with a crisp accuracy and brutal honesty, Elahe Hessamfar brings before us some hard theological questions. Her analysis is full of insight about how we might think about the shape of Christian hope and witness in the shadow of such threatening conditions.
Brian Brock, University of Aberdeen

Hessamfar has brought together theology, psychiatry, pastoral care and personal experience in a book that gives us a foundation for wise care and ministry to a misunderstood group. Her work is crammed with possible application.
Edward Welch, Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation (CCEF)

Elahe Hessamfar’s book is most welcome, revealing and challenging to psychiatry, theology, religion and academia … I commend this book to the readers of MHC&R for its revelations and its challenge to all embroiled in the care and treatment of mental illness, the forgotten leprosy of our times.
John Foskett, Chaplain Emeritus of The Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals, London

The author recommends a multidisciplinary approach in which the best examples of medical and faith-inspired practice are combined. It has the potential to be a game changer.
The Revd Anne Holmes, in Church Times, December 2015