In this section is content related to Mental Illness. It includes a theological framework, catechetical resources, a listing of other resources, events, links and foundational documents and concepts in disability ministry.
There is high prevalence of mental illness in every faith community. One in five families has a member with a diagnosable mental illness. One in seventeen people lives with a persistent or severe mental illness. Often individuals or families turn to their parish community for support and guidance. Regrettably, some parishes fail to respond due to limited understanding of mental illness or lack of awareness of the power of supportive relationships. Yet one cannot deny the role that faith communities can play in providing the understanding and compassionate support essential to recovery and living daily with this challenging illness.
People who experience major mental illnesses tend to feel isolated and marginalized. They often feel excluded from the community in which they grew up and from their own parish. The myths about and the misunderstanding of mental illness keep some people and their families from participating in the life of the church because they feel judged, devalued, unwelcome, or ―different.‖ Awareness of these perceptions, which are often overlooked or discounted, can guide parishes in the most helpful response. Including people with mental illness and their families in addressing these issues will provide insights into the most effective response.
The onset and subsequent diagnosis of mental illness impacts families as well as the individual. Families with a member with mental illness often do not know where to turn for help. Understanding and coping with the illness, as well as the search for services and support, drains them spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially. Often relationships with extended family members and friends are strained. The illness itself and the associated stigma of mental illness can lead to feelings of guilt, denial, grief, isolation and loss of hope.
People who live with mental illness are disproportionately impacted by the social injustices of prejudice, poverty, inadequate housing, unemployment or underemployment, lack of access to health care, especially mental health care, and inequalities within the criminal justice system. Each issue demands advocacy to ensure that the needs of people with mental illness are effectively addressed.
Serious mental illness can cause a crisis of faith for the person with mental illness and for the family. Why me/why our family? Is God punishing me/us? These and other questions can shake one‘s faith and be obstacles to recovery. A supportive faith community can help work through doubts and questions in a way that contributes to recovery and a restoration of faith.
An informed and caring faith community is an integral part of the holistic support system that provides companionship and hope to people living with mental illness, and to their families.