Hope-Filled Healthcare for Mental Illness

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Hope-Filled Healthcare for Mental IllnessBringing New Life Out of Devastation Through Compassionate, Interdisciplinary Teamwork

About the Author:

Throughout his early years, Robert (Bob) Engstrom caught the true spirit of ministry from his pastor father, Reuben Engstrom, who radiated a loving, soothing, comforting presence. Bob’s father was at times astonished when people would say, “You really helped me,” when he had done little more than just listen.  Bob’s father also listened to his son.  Despite his busy schedule, he would drop everything and give Bob his undivided attention. In Bob’s darkest hours, he always offered unconditional love, forgiveness, and undying hope.  The most indelible example of this came when Bob was a very young man and believed that he had fallen far short of his parents’ expectations. One day in the kitchen, he said to his father, “Dad, I feel like I have really let you and Mom down.”And he would never, ever forget what happened next. His father looked him in the eye and said, “Bob, we don’t love you because of what you do. We love you because you are you.” In those words he conveyed that he loved Bob, not based upon his good or bad performance, but simply because Bob was his son. That encounter sowed a precious seed in Bob’s mind and heart, changing his life forever, bearing abundant fruit in later ministry. To illustrate God’s unconditional love, Bob has shared this story from time to time with the patients under his care.  Through his father’s spirit of true pastoral caring, and through other caring people (including his mother), Bob sensed the presence of the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.… ” He began to envision how he might in turn “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

 When Bob entered parish ministry upon earning his Master of Divinity at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, he discovered that he felt most alive within a comforting role, whether he was conducting a funeral or listening to a young man struggling in a troubled marriage. It later dawned on him that chaplaincy ministry best suited his personality profile. After completing a year of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), he became the first Protestant chaplain at St. Bernardine Medical Center in Southern California. He then became board certified through what is now the Association of Professional Chaplains.  Though he served in many clinical capacities at both St. Bernardine and later at Florida Hospital, Bob had a special empathy for those afflicted with mental illness.  “Through the years,” he says, “I discovered that nothing is more satisfying than seeing the light of hope dawning on a psychiatric patient’s face, and hearing them say, ‘I feel so much better.’ It was also satisfying to have these patients return repeatedly for hope reinforcements.”  His experience in the area of mental health provided a rich foundation for his teaching roles within Florida Hospital’s Family Practice Residency and his mentoring of chaplaincy students in Florida Hospital’s CPE program. For many years he progressively authored for CPE students a mini-manual entitled “Psychiatric Ministry,” a work which contributed substantially to this monograph.  Though he is now retired from full-time chaplaincy, his vocation is far from over as he seeks new adventures in whatever direction he senses God calling him.


Do 21st Century mentally ill patients receive all the help and support they need?

“Not usually,” says veteran Chaplain Robert W. Engstrom, now retired, who specialized in hope-filled spiritually-based care to the mentally ill for more than two decades, most of them in the context of Florida Hospital, in Orlando, Florida. “Even in our supposedly sophisticated era,” Rev. Engstrom says, “many people with mental illness are stigmatized, ostracized, marginalized, or worse.”

Engstrom’s monograph, Hope-Filled Healthcare for Mental Illness, is a clarion call for respectful, compassionate interdisciplinary whole-person care for those suffering from mental illness. All caregivers who have contact with the mentally ill, whether in a clinical or non-clinical setting, and whether they are trained psychiatric professionals or not, will find this book to be an indispensable look into the world of people with mental illness and how to help them.

“There is always hope,” Chaplain Engstrom would say, and then he might share a story like that of the suicidal Pastor Ralph, who recovered through the loving intervention of his wife and the compassionate treatment of a team of caregivers who helped him renew his connection with the God he served, like a modern day fulfillment of the Old Testament Isaiah’s promise that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Or he might describe how Sandy, a young woman whose first psychotic break occurred just weeks before her planned wedding to her childhood sweetheart. Soon she was hearing voices telling her to do irrational things, including throwing herself into a river clad in a wedding gown. A nurse named Norma gained Sandy’s trust and listened to her story, helping her believe that someone understood and cared.

You will find it moving, inspirational, compelling, convincing, practical, and motivational. The resources and patient questionnaires included will help you take whole-person care for the mentally ill to the next level. The insights and multiple true life illustrations will help you walk with a mentally ill person from out of the dark depths of their own personal hell to see again what the poet, Dante, called “the shining world” when he wrote, “and so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.”

The Florida Hospital Healthcare and Leadership Monograph Series is rooted in the intellectual capital of employees at Florida Hospital - the largest admitting hospital in America. Monographs in this series provide focused, expert, relevant, and affordable training to interested individuals and organizations on a specific topic. Because of Florida Hospital's history, as well as a vast array of business and medical innovations, the monograph series covers topics with a unique whole person health undertone.

Book Information

Paperback: 75 Pages

Price: $25.00

Product Dimensions: 9.8 in x 7.8 in x 0.3 in

Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces

Language: English

Publisher: Florida Hospital Publishing