Wednesday, 03 October 2012 14:35
By Tom Racunas
Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct. 7-13 and the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding is Tuesday, Oct. 9.
With those dates in mind, here is some information from the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Council on Mental Illness.
• About one in four people have a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, and one in 17 live with a persistent and severe condition.
• One family in five is impacted by the mental illness of a loved one. Faith communities can play an important role in providing understanding and compassionate support essential to recovery and living daily with this challenging illness.
• People who experience major mental illness 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 or why our family? Is God punishing me or 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 parish is an integral part of the holistic support system that provides companionship and hope to people living with mental illness, and to their families.
Want more information?
For more information on how your parish might help parishioners with mental illness, contact the Office of the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities at (316) 269-3900 or email racunast@Catholic DioceseOfWichita.org.