Parishes called to welcome those with mental illness
By Christine M. WilliamsSpecial to The Pilot
"Nobody's going to come up and say, 'Well, I have schizophrenia, but I go to work every day, I hold a job, I have a marriage.' But I guarantee there's a lot of people who are in that situation," he said.
As "people of compassion and justice," Catholics need to create safe havens for people to talk about their mental illness and allow their faith to be part of their healing. Something as simple as a prayer intention at Mass during Mental Illness Awareness Week may spark hope.
He said of his family's reaction to his daughter's diagnosis, "We relied very heavily on our faith. It was crucial in getting us through that. Through prayer and turning things over to the Lord, saying we're going to deal with this situation with the strength and hope that comes from God and our faith. That's really what got us through, quite honestly. It's as simple as that."
Father Rodney Thibault, director of the Diocese of Fall River's Pastoral Care of the Sick, said that his work in hospital ministry has brought him in frequent contact with people whose mental illnesses have put them in the psychiatric ward, often because they are battling suicidal thoughts.
"I have found that people really do reach out, and they seek the presence of God in their lives in a moment like that. Usually, it's to find that inner peace," he said. "They know that Jesus is the one who is the king of peace."
For specific ways your parish can reach out to its members struggling with mental illness, visit the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities website at http://ncpd.org/.
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