“Crying ‘Mercy’: Christian Women and Mental Health”

This piece by Jennifer Danielle Crumpton was originally published on Huffington Post, Huffington Post (HuffPost Religion) and can be viewed here.

“Through Mercy Ministries, God has removed the tape from my mouth and given me back my voice.”

This was the Christian counseling program graduation testimony of a woman named Hayley who was abused by caretakers as a child and suffered from depression, social anxiety, suicidal ideation and an eating disorder. The devout Christian went to Mercy for help, but came away with only more trauma. At Mercy, submission to God was measured by unquestioned submission to the rigid, one-size-fits-all religious methods of the counseling.

Years later, Hayley realizes this statement meant something completely different. The experience at Mercy actually woke her up to the importance of knowing and trusting herself, and speaking up for herself and others against forced religious beliefs that may stunt and even set back healing.

She is using her voice today in a Slate piece by Jennifer Miller to help educate Christian women about the real experience she had at Mercy.

I recently had a conversation with journalist Jennifer Miller about her important article ‘Mercy Girls’, which relays the stories of some young women and families who looked to a Christian ministry now called Mercy Multiplied for help in their struggles with trauma, addiction and mental illness. But the program they entered was not at all what they expected.

Miller gives these women a voice, explores both the benefits and drawbacks of faith-based therapies, and shines a light on the gaps in the American mental health system that leave people without the care they need, leading them into perhaps inappropriate and unhealthy alternatives.

Watch our brief discussion and let me know what you think:

 

Raphael Aron of Cult Counselling Australia speaks out about Mercy Ministries

The following interview with Raphael Aron of Cult Counselling Australia was televised nationally on The 9am Show on Channel 10 in a secment titled “Too good to be true”.

Interview with Mercy Survivor "Sarah Mac": G'Day World podcast with Cameron Reilly

“Sarah Mac”, who spent eight months in one of the Australian Mercy Ministries homes, recently spoke with G’Day World’s Cameron Reilly.  She recounts some of her experiences such as being denied prescribed medication, being manipulated and disciplined, being forced to have cold showers and having her welfare benefits (Centrelink) signed over to Mercy Ministries.

All seven parts of the interview can be heard below.

The original interview can be found here.

"Mercy Ministries update: The PR battle moves to YouTube"

This article by Caleb Hannan originally appeared in The Nashville Scene and can be viewed here.

The online fight between Mercy Ministries and its various detractors has always been spirited. Blogs like CynicSage, Against Biblical Counseling, and Mercy Ministries of America: Truth Will Out, represent part of a small, but vocal group of ex-Mercy graduates and interested parties willing to air their dirty laundry in public. But up until now, Mercy has been relatively silent. That changed last week, when Mercy shifted its counterattack into overdrive. Several YouTube users have been targeted on claims of copyright infringement. Mercy contends the clips are illegal; the aggrieved counter that the videos fall under the domain of “fair use.” In the meantime, nearly all of the anti-Mercy videos once available have been taken down, replaced by hasty mash-ups like the one above, attempting to explain the fiasco. Naturally, both sides, and their lawyers, claim to be in the right. Since we’re neither attorneys nor experts in copyright law, we’ll be quietly watching from the sidelines and letting you know when the squabble resolves itself.

Our stories: Sarah Mac

The following video was created by Mercy Survivor “Sarah Mac”.  In this presentation, she shares of the abuse and medical negligence she experienced at the hands of Mercy Ministries, and her journey of finding hope after her time at Mercy Ministries.

Mercy Ministries counseling and the casting out of demons

Mercy Ministries advertise that they offer “professional support from psychologists, dieticians, general practitioners, social workers, counsellors and program staff who all contribute to provide daily education for the young women” in their care.  They also claim that the program is “provided at no charge to the young women.”

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Mercy Ministries’ promotional brochure obtained from a Gloria Jeans Coffees outlet in NSW, 2007 (click for larger.)

Imagine a young woman’s horror then, as she enters the program and finds that she has no contact with psychologists, mental health professionals or social workers, and that the only counselor she is permitted to see during her time at Mercy Ministries is unqualified and unregistered.  In Australia, despite advertising that the program was free (presumably to attract more donations from the public,) Mercy Ministries charge the girls for their services from a girl’s Centrelink sickness benefit (welfare cheque).

Let’s discuss the type of counseling offered to young women in the Mercy Ministries program.  Mercy Ministries advertise that they offer “Christian based counselling” however, they do not go into specifics when describing the type of counseling given, nor the qualifications of their “counselors.”

Mercy Ministries use a counseling program known as “Restoring the Foundations.”

Our purpose is not to argue the virtues of such a counseling program when it is being used with a person’s informed consent; rather to explore whether Mercy Ministries is being upfront about the types of practices being used in the ‘counseling’ they are performing, and whether a young woman who goes to Mercy Ministries seeking the promised professional treatment, is properly informed before she walks through the doors.

This program is far from the typical example of “Christian based counseling” as Mercy Ministries describes it.

Sections within this counseling program are entitled:

  • Sins of the Fathers and the Resulting Curses
  • Ungodly Beliefs
  • Soul/Spirit Hurts
  • Demonic Oppression

Source:  What is Restoring the Foundations Ministry?

More about Restoring The Foundations can be read here

Many former residents have spoken about exorcisms (the casting out of demons) that were performed on them during their counseling sessions at Mercy Ministries. Mercy Ministries Australia has categorically denied performing any such practice.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the Restoring the Foundations counseling materials that are worked through during counseling sessions at Mercy Ministries:

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Dozens of young women who were treated at a Mercy Ministries facility have come forward to speak out about the abuse and neglect they experienced during their time in the program.  These women come from a variety of different experiences.  While many of these women chose to leave the program due to the lack of much needed medical treatment, others were dismissed with no follow up, and others have “graduated” from the Mercy Ministries program.

If one thing remains clear, it is that Mercy Ministries’ claims that 95% of young women who enter their program “successfully graduate,” or that they come out unscathed from their experiences, is nothing close to the truth.

Mercy Ministries Australia’s response on television program Today Tonight:

An excerpt from a letter recieved from television program Today Tonight on 20 March 2008:

In the days since Today Tonight did a story on Mercy Ministries, we have been inundated with responses, so much so it’s raised serious questions about the figures we received from Mercy Ministries claiming to be the total number of girls who graduated and “failed”.

Executive Director of Mercy Ministries Peter Irvine claimed since the organisation began in 2000, 96 women had graduated, six failed and only two had come forward to complain… Since our program aired, a greater number of women have since contacted our program citing mistreatment by Mercy Ministries.

These girls did not receive professional treatment whilst in the care of Mercy Ministries, they were denied such help and instead were put in the care of people whose only training was from an in-house program – a far cry from the medically based expertise needed to treat serious problems of sexual abuse, drug addiction, and psychological trauma.  It also contradicts the program guidelines outlined on the website.  Even the website acknowledges that such conditions need professional help…

Kind regards,
Marguerite McKinnon

Journalist
Today Tonight

Interview with Mercy Survivor "Vickie Lucas": G'Day World podcast with Cameron Reilly

The original interview can be found here.

The original You Tube links containing the interview were removed due to false DMCA claims made by Mercy Ministries.  (Further information on this can be found here and here and here).

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