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Mental health awareness

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During these challenging and unsettling times, exacerbated by a pandemic that has caused death and physical, mental and emotional suffering, we must remember one of the most important truths of our Faith: we are not alone, God is with us. This critical truth is important to reflect upon at all times, but such reflection is especially vital during this Mental Health Awareness Month.

We are united in prayer and share a common belief that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and as such is a temple of the Holy Spirit. In our earthly journey as followers of Christ, we also share in his sufferings. We are very much aware of the crosses that some of our brothers and sisters, and some of us, carry: depression, anxiety, obsessions, addictions, dysfunctional relationships and traumatic events, and wounds that make a healthy and flourishing life very difficult. For all who suffer from mental health challenges, as well as for their families and loved ones, the burden is heavy.

Nearly one in five American adults has a diagnosable mental health condition. Forty-six percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will have developed their condition by the age of 14. Clearly, this issue should be taken seriously and those affected should be treated with compassion in imitation of Christ.

Out of his great love for us, God sends instruments of his healing love to help those in such need: mental health care workers. Counselors, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists are instruments of the Lord’s healing love. We must never be afraid to seek help when we need it, nor should those who seek mental health assistance be stigmatized. Rather, they should be admired and supported for the courage they demonstrate in seeking to care for the temple God created.

How important it is that we recognize and celebrate the harmony of our Catholic faith with the mental health profession. Acknowledging earlier pioneers, the 1980s witnessed a clear articulation of that harmony with St. John Paul II’s reflections on the importance of sound psychological and emotional health for the integral development of the whole person: body, mind and soul. This brought forth a new flourishing of the integration of psychology with the Catholic faith. 

Following Christ, the Church declares that we are much more than our feelings, impulses and behavior alone. The Church says we are free and able to live in the truth of God’s beauty and love, transcending natural barriers like mental health conditions even as we suffer. This is because we have access to the transcendent, to the spiritual, which gives us dignity as adopted children of God and puts us in intimate relationship with the Blessed Trinity.  

Any view of the person that deprives us of this truth limits our freedom and our ability to be loved and to love in return. To study the human person without this transcendent view or to see the human person stuck in the material world without intimate contact with a loving God is incomplete at best and destructive at worst. Such approaches lead to a dark worldview of meaninglessness and hopelessness that we see so frequently in our modern age.

Today, more than ever, we need mental health clinicians committed to the genuine integration of body, mind and soul. We need clinicians who are not only professional but also animated and armed with their faith in order to give those who are suffering the best chance at psychological and spiritual healing. How blessed we are to have so many serving in the Diocese of Arlington.

Today, dear friends, especially those suffering the pain and frustration of mental illness and those caring for the mentally ill, entrust your lives to the care and to the protection of Our Blessed Mother, Queen of heaven and earth, and to her Son, Jesus Christ, the Divine Physician. May God bless you now, and always.

Find out more

To make a teletherapy appointment with a Catholic Charities counselor, call 703/859-3147 or 703/447-9402.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to Bishop Burbidge discuss mental health on the Walk Humbly Podcast

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021