A Christian perspective on Mental Illness

Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in May

“May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter.”

—Pope Francis

By Mona McCalley-Whitters, Ph.D. and Alan Whitters, MD

Special to The Witness

We are called to action by our Holy Father Pope Francis to provide a compassionate, caring environment for all. In May, Catholics have an opportunity to follow this message from Pope Francis during Mental Health Awareness month. The goal is to educate ourselves and others about mental health, to decrease stigmas associated with mental illness, and to provide encouragement to persons with mental conditions.

Education: Everyone knows someone who has mental health issues. In fact, one in five Americans live with mental health conditions. A recent survey indicates that half of all Americans have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives. Mild conditions are quite common. Severe and persistent mental illness is less common but still afflicts three percent of the population. Schizophrenia afflicts about one percent of the population and utilizes most hospital beds in the United States. Each person has a personal story and a journey that impacts their daily functioning at home, work, and in their community. Whether you live with mental illness or are a family member, a friend, a care giver, or a health provider, it is important to see the person and not the diagnosis. Mental health, along with physical and spiritual health, is critical to our overall well-being. Mental illness describes multiple brain disorders that impact the way a person lives, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is a serious misconception when mental illness is viewed as a weakness or a defect in one’s personality. Research is advancing our understanding of the brain and the relationship between the mind and body.

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