Study: Trauma-Informed Bible Reading Reduces Depression, Anxiety, Anger by ADAM MACINNIS for Christianity Today
Research in Virginia jail could help churches deal with emotional impact of the pandemic.
One day soon the pandemic may be past, and COVID-19, a memory. But the trauma—from the isolation, seeing people die, facing financial stress, and living with loss and the anxiety of the unknown—will continue for a long time to come.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American adults with recent symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders increased more than 5 points between the summer of 2020 and the spring of 2021. One out of every 10 people reports having an unmet mental health care need.
“We’re going to see this level of trauma for many years,” said Nicole Martin, executive director of trauma healing at the American Bible Society (ABS). “It’s not just going to go away when everyone is vaccinated and everyone is allowed inside.”
Martin and the American Bible Society want to meet that need with trauma-informed Bible reading, teaching people about healing from trauma using Scripture.
A recent ABS-commissioned study by Baylor University researchers found that combining education about mental health best practices with Bible reading can have a significant benefit. In their study, this reduced the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and increased forgiveness, compassion, and sense of purpose.
“As America experiences a mental health crisis, this study shows the potential benefits of faith-sensitive care for traumatized people,” said Robert L. Briggs, ABS president and CEO. “The Bible has been shown to be a vital source for emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental healing.”
The study looked at the effectiveness of the ABS curriculum Healing the Wounds of Trauma, taught inside Riverside Regional Jail in North Prince George, Virginia.
A group of 210 incarcerated men and women volunteered to take the five-session program, where trained facilitators read Scripture with participants and walk them through a process of identifying their pain, sharing it, and bringing their trauma to the cross of Christ for healing, so they can be freed to care for themselves and serve others. The participants answered questions about themselves and their mental health before, immediately after, one month after, and three months after finishing the program. Another group of 139 incarcerated people volunteered to take the survey without going through the program.
Comparing the two groups, researchers found that the program showed statistically significant results.