Elizabeth L. Hinson-Hasty pursues places where care for people with serious mental illness and their families is unraveled in the United States. She picks up threads of empowerment from the Christian tradition to address the distinctive circumstances of individuals and families affected by mental illness, and draws upon her own experiences as the sibling of someone with serious mental illness (SMI). As a scholar of theology and Christian ethics, the author challenges the traditional theological explanations of disability and madness and the public policies that try to fit people with SMI into boxes and checklists made for those with minds and bodies society values as ideal.
Dutiful Love explores the distinctive relationship between self-sacrificial love and caregiving when that duty to care extends over the course of an entire lifetime because of social limitations placed upon people with mental illness. Hinson-Hasty investigates how the Christian theological tradition shapes our Western understanding of normal and abnormal minds and bodies. This approach to mental and physical impairment associates healing with curing but neglects the empowerment thread that is part of the gospel narrative. The author encourages caregivers (whether professionals, friends, or families) to think about the concept of self-giving as an alternative to self-sacrifice. In the context of families impacted by mental illness or degenerative disease, healing is more synonymous with presence. Intentional presence involves self-giving, listening, contemplation, prophetic truth-telling, and walking with another so that isolation, stigma, and shame no longer define the social realities of people with mental illness, their siblings, or their larger families.
The book includes discussion questions, making it an ideal resource for individual reflection, church study groups, and college, seminary, and university classrooms.