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    An exploration of what it means to be a human being by focusing on the theological implications of the experiences of people living with mental health challenges.

    This course seeks to offer insights, understandings and practices that can help Christians to understand and respond faithfully to complex mental health issues. The course will use a multidisciplinary approach to explore some of the ways in which theology in its theoretical and practical dimensions can throw fresh light on mental health issues. Amongst other things the course will develop understandings of mental health challenges such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and anxiety, as well as thinking through crucial issues in relation to areas such as dementia and brain damage. At the end of the course students should have a firm grasp of the nature of mental health and il-health from a variety of perspectives and should be able to offer understanding and assistance to people living with mental health issues.

    About this paper

    Paper title Special Topic: A Practical Theology of Mental Health (Advanced)
    Subject Ministry
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024, expected to be offered in 2025 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,240.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    Limited to
    BA(Hons), PGDipArts, PGCertChap, PGDipChap, MChap, BTheol(Hons), PGDipTheol, MTheol, PGDipMin, MMin
    May not be taken concurrently with PAST307.

    Any student can study Theology, whether they are of the Christian faith, another faith or of no religious faith at all. Theology is an examination of the scriptures, history, content and relevance of the Christian faith, but it presupposes or requires no Christian commitment from students. All it requires is an inquiring mind and an interest in those skills that can be gained through the study of any subject in the Humanities.


    Professor David Tombs

    Teaching staff

    Professor John Swinton

    Paper Structure

    Module 1: Introduction to Practical Theology and Mental Health
    Module 2: Understanding Depression and Anxiety: Towards a theology of liberation and joy
    Module 3: Understanding schizophrenia
    Module 4: Bipolar Faith?: Reflecting theologically on bipolar disorder
    Module 5: Forgetting Whose We Are: A practical theology of dementia


    Alongside of the various papers that will form the reading for the course, there is one required textbook which all students are expected to read.

    John E Colewell (2014). Why Have You Forsaken Me?: A Personal Reflection on the Experience of Desolations. Paternoster: London

    Course outline

    View the latest course outline here.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised

    Scholarship, critical thinking, and ethics.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to:

    1. Develop a familiarity with the discipline of practical theology with its core emphases on the interconnectedness between theory and practice
    2. Critically analyse a wide variety of literature within the area of mental health issues
    3. Have a critical perspective on a number of key theologians’ thinking on mental health
    4. Be able to distinguish clearly between medical understandings of mental health and theological perspectives
    5. Critically evaluate the ways in which issues related to mental health lead to understanding of the meaning and nature of Christian community
    6. In the light of their own knowledge, practice and experience, develop critical perspectives on key theological issues that are involved in the study of mental health


    Not offered in 2024, expected to be offered in 2025

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
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