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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

'It was simply the end of what I could bear': Resetting Christian Theology on Mental Illness and Suicide

luncheon colloquium


Elizabeth Antus
Boston College

Date: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Time: 12 - 1:15pm
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

RSVP required. Click here to register.

Abstract: Of her bipolar disorder and her suicide attempt, the U.S. psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison recalls in Night Falls Fast, “I had tried earlier to kill myself…It was simply the end of what I could bear." The one million people who die by suicide annually —many of whom probably have a diagnosable mental illness — can likely relate to this psychic fatigue. However, there is relatively little Christian theological discussion of this vast public health problem, and traditional Christian views of suicide simply condemn it without fully recognizing the psychological agony of suicidal people. As Antus will discuss in her presentation, Christian theologians need to engage with psychological analyses of the experience of suicidality so that they can de-stigmatize suicidal people without normalizing suicide. Furthermore, Christians need to expand their belief in the communion of saints and remembering the dead to include, explicitly, those who have died by suicide. Resetting Christian theology in this manner enables Christians to discuss mental illness and suicide robustly and compassionately. 

headshot of antus

Elizabeth Antus is an assistant professor of the practice in the theology department at Boston College. She is a Catholic systematic theologian writing about theological anthropology in relation to the topics of mental health, feminism, sexual violence, and disability. Among other projects, she is currently working on a book promoting a constructive Christian theological account of proper self-love entitled Steady My Soul: An Augustinian Feminist Account of Self-Love.

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In an article from July of last year, Dr. Lisa Pryor discusses how the discussion around mental health has shifted and the positive and negative impacts of that shift. She argues that while much good has been done, many illnesses are still left out of the picture and our discussions need to shift even further. On February 21st, the Boisi Center will host theologian Elizabeth Antus to discuss Christian theology and its ongoing discussions of mental illness in a luncheon colloqium.