From Chalice Press: Why We’re Publishing “Blessed Youth” and “Blessed Youth Survival Guide”

This was originally posted on Chalice Press, here.

Nearly 20 percent of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide last year. Almost 10 percent acted on those thoughts and attempted suicide.

These statistics, reported in April by the Center for Disease Control, became part of the life experience of Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund when her 16-year-old niece died by suicide in 2020—and compelled her to act so other families would not endure the same pain and loss.

In the years I’ve had the gift of working with Sarah, I’ve found a gentle soul, supportive and nurturing, understanding and compassionate when talking about this very, very difficult subject. I deeply admire Sarah’s ability to share her own stories and to craft the stories of others in ways that become relatable and enlightening.

Dr. Lund’s 2014 debut book, Blessed are the Crazy, remains a landmark book for Chalice Press and all who recognize the roles faith and religion can play in helping us address mental illness in ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Her second book, Blessed Union, looked at marriage and mental health. It was published last year at a time when the pandemic exacted a merciless toll on mental health and relationships in ways we never imagined when we said “I do.”

Now, the release of Blessed Youth and Blessed Youth Survival Guide provide a deep dive and frank discussion about the growing mental health challenges our youth face. In Blessed Youth, Sarah addresses what really needs to be considered an emergency — the first wave of a mental illness tsumani sparked by the pandemic, massive cultural change and unrest, and unprecedented social media engagement. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Sadly, the Blessed Youth books were born of the pandemic’s effects on Sarah’s niece: Sydney was 16 when she died by suicide in November 2020. Sarah wrote the Blessed Youth books so youth and parents could find help before another tragedy occurred. Blessed Youth emerged in the weeks after Sydney’s death. Blessed Youth Survival Guide came later, a pocket-sized book for teens to have in an emergency. It includes some mental health basics, emergency contacts, and tools to equip a teen to respond in a crisis until professional help arrives.

The human mind is a miraculous thing, a combination of chemical reactions and electricity and really-truly-only-God-knows-what that gives us the ability to think, to imagine, to love. Sometimes the chemistry and electricity are a little out of balance. This leads to the additional miracle of medication that, when accompanied by the God-given gift of empathy, professionals use to help us figure out how we can rebalance our brain activity. It can be hard to admit you need to talk to somebody or may need to take medication, but books like Dr. Lund’s Blessed series help us recognize that need in ourselves or those we love and then take action.

Our prayer is that Blessed Youth will prove to all who care about our teens and that Blessed Youth Survival Guide will be a godsend for teens in those crisis moments.

Gratefully,
Brad Lyons
President and Publisher

1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/su/su7103a3.htm

Published by Cassidy Hall

Cassidy Hall (MA, MDiv, MTS) is an author, filmmaker, podcaster, and holds a Masters of Divinity, Masters of Theological Studies, and Masters in Counseling. Born and raised in Iowa, she now works as Director of Communications for the Heartland and IKC Conferences in the United Church of Christ – overseeing First Communication for hundreds of churches in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. She is ordained pending call in the United Church of Christ and continues to re-imagine alongside the modern world what it means to be the church. Throughout her time at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, she worked as a Teaching Assistant while studying for her MDiv and MTS degrees (December, 2021). During her time at seminary, she also served as the Secretary of the International Thomas Merton Society and continues to serve on the board of Enfleshed. Cassidy co-authored Notes on Silence (2018) and has had her work featured in devotionals including most recently: Thirsty, and You Gave Me Drink; Homilies and Reflections for Cycle C, from Clear Faith Publishing (2021). Her essays have been published in the Christian Century, The National Catholic Reporter, Convivium Journal, The Thomas Merton Seasonal, The Thomas Merton Annual, and she has also been a contributor for The Huffington Post and Patheos. Before pursuing her MDiv and MTS in Indianapolis, Cassidy lived in Los Angeles where she worked on the production team of the documentary feature film, In Pursuit of Silence. The film’s success on the festival circuit and beyond led to its worldwide theatrical release. Her directorial debut short-film, Day of a Stranger, paints an intimate portrait of Thomas Merton’s hermitage years and received the Audience Choice Award from Illuminate Film Festival.   She is the co-host of the Encountering Silence podcast, which explores the ambiguity of silence in our modern-day lives. And more recently, she created a podcast hosted by the Christian Century titled Contemplating Now, which examines the intersection of contemplation and social justice.

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