Catholics with mental health problems are not alone National Catholic Register

Catholics struggling with mental illness and their loved ones who want to help them will soon find more formal support in the Diocese of Phoenix. Bishop John Dolan announced the opening of an office dedicated to Catholic mental health ministry.

“There are a lot of people dealing with loved ones who are in crisis,” Bishop Dolan told CNA on September 19. “It’s quiet charity work and obviously they need all the help they can get.”

The bishop hopes the new office “will let people know they are not alone when it comes to mental health.” He stressed the need to help people talk and communicate about mental illness.

Bishop Dolan announced the office on September 4 at St. Simon and Jude Cathedral during ‘Remembrance Mass’ for those who died by suicide, Diocesan Gazette The Catholic Sun reported.

During the liturgy, the bishop led a procession of clergy. Joined by others in the congregation, they placed carnations in baskets outside a shrine in the cathedral. Each clove represents a person who committed suicide. The diocese has requested that the names of suicide victims be honored during the Mass and has received more than 1,200.

The matter is personal for the new bishop. In a video message, “Sharing My Story: A Life Changed by Suicide,” posted on the diocese’s YouTube channel, Bishop Dolan recounts how his family lost an older brother, sister and her husband to suicide.

“Losing a loved one is very, very hard. When we lose a loved one to suicide, it’s doubly difficult,” Bishop Dolan said in the video. “I had support from the Church, but not constant support, real opportunities to keep talking about it. I buried so much that I just never thought about growing up the way I should have grown up.’

Bishop Dolan, who was installed as bishop of Phoenix on August 2, is the co-editor of Pastor’s Guide to Suicide Response.

Mental illness is relatively common. The National Institutes of Mental Health says that by 2020, nearly one in five U.S. adults—about 53 million people—lived with a mental illness. An estimated 14.2 million adults in the US—5.6% of the adult population—suffer from a serious mental illness. Of these, only 65% ​​had received mental health treatment in the previous year.

The Office of Catholic Mental Health Ministry’s planned focus includes mental health education for clergy and laity. The office aims to provide opportunities for Catholics to find support in accompanying friends and loved ones struggling with mental illness.

The new office will provide priests with a mental health “first aid kit” to help them counsel or respond to those in need, Bishop Dolan said.

The educational aspect will aim to help clergy and religious workers learn more about mental health and receive basic training “so they don’t jump to conclusions and spiritualize their behavior,” Bishop Dolan said. This educational effort should help instill in clergy a “broad view of what mental health is” so that they are not “trying to solve problems on their own.”

The education will be through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. The council, founded in 1969, is an advocacy and education group that represents more than 3,100 mental health and substance use treatment organizations.

“They’re basically trying to teach them what to expect and what to look for,” Bishop Dolan said. “It is strictly clinical in education; it does not focus on any of the spiritual aspects,” although spiritual help is, of course, help in such crises.

The organization’s Mental Health First Aid program has trained more than 2.6 million people in the US “to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use problems.” Training covers common signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges, how to interact with a person in crisis, and how to connect a person to help. Also includes content on trauma, substance use, and self-care.

Psychological sciences play a role in Catholic thought and practice, Bishop Dolan said.

“We see the science of psychology and psychiatry as a valuable gift to our human personality. We must not avoid this,” he told CNA.

The aim is not to increase the burden on the priests. Rather, they will have a resource to refer those in need. Bishop Dolan aims to have places in each of the diocese’s 15 deaneries for people suffering from mental health problems, behavioral problems, trauma or bereavement.

Bishop Dolan said he was not yet privy to the details of how the diocese’s current seminarians are being prepared.

Speaking of seminarians in general, he said “counseling is perhaps one aspect of their training” and future priests receive only “small samples” of psychology unless they take classes on the subject at their university or seminary.

A 2016 document from the Dicastery for the Clergy, A fundamental reason discusses the formation of seminarians. It is noted that the “useful contribution” of psychology to pastoral theology will benefit the training of seminarians as future pastors.

The Office of Catholic Mental Health Ministry will also have an advocacy role. She will seek to improve government policy and increase funding targeted at mental health. Bishop Dolan said this would help “make sure mental health is at the forefront of all our conversations, especially as we see more and more people on the streets with mental health disorders”.

According to the bishop, there are “a whole range of reasons” why some homeless people live on the streets, including trauma, mental or substance use disorders. Experiencing homelessness causes additional anxiety and mental health problems, he added.

The office, which will open in January 2023, has financial support from the Phoenix-based Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. Ann Vargas-Leveriza of the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection and Maria Chavira, diocesan chancellor, are responsible for organizing the new office.

Bishop Dolan, a former auxiliary bishop of San Diego, noted previous Catholic statements such as the 2018 letter from the California bishops on caring for those suffering from mental health.

He said the Catholic dioceses of San Diego, San Francisco and Orange, Calif., already work to address mental health, often with the efforts of other diocesan departments. He noted the work of the University of San Diego-based Catholic Institute for Mental Health Ministry, which seeks to train leaders of mental health ministries at the diocesan and parish levels in the US

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *