Please Help Those With Mental Health Struggles

The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, has a brave and honest shepherd in Bishop James Conley. His pastoral letter on mental health, titled “The Human Condition: Hope in the Cross and Resurrection,” addresses several aspects of mental health from a Catholic perspective. In this letter, Bishop Conley shares his own struggles with anxiety and depression, providing a personal and relatable context. He describes his experiences with medication, therapy, and a sabbatical for treatment, highlighting the importance of seeking help.

The pastoral letter emphasizes the spiritual dimension of mental health, integrating the understanding of mental health struggles within the broader context of Catholic faith. Bishop Conley discusses how faith, prayer, and the sacraments can provide comfort and support to those suffering. He calls for greater compassion and understanding toward those dealing with mental health issues, encouraging the Catholic community to be more open and supportive to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. He outlines the Church’s role in providing pastoral care and support, highlighting the importance of parish communities in offering resources, guidance, and a supportive environment.

Bishop Conley underscores the message of hope and resilience found in the Christian faith. He relates mental health struggles to the suffering and resurrection of Christ, offering a message of hope and redemption. The letter encourages individuals to seek professional help when needed, including therapy and medication. Bishop Conley stresses that seeking such help is not a sign of weak faith but a responsible and necessary step toward healing. He advocates for an integrated approach to mental health care that includes medical, psychological, and spiritual support. The bishop also calls for collaboration between mental health professionals and pastoral caregivers.

Along these lines, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has started a campaign on mental health, focusing on addressing the significant mental health crisis in the United States, particularly highlighted by the impacts of the global pandemic. The National Catholic Mental Health Campaign aims to raise awareness, combat stigma, and advocate for effective support for those struggling with mental health issues. The campaign launched on World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10, 2023, and included a novena (a traditional nine-day Catholic prayer) to engage the community and raise awareness. This initiative is designed to inspire a national conversation on mental health and mobilize the Catholic Church to respond with compassion and efficacy.

The USCCB has also organized roundtable discussions to delve into specific mental health challenges. For instance, in March, a roundtable discussion featuring Catholic psychologists addressed mental health issues among young people, touching on topics like depression, suicide, and spiritual engagement. The U.S. bishops’ mental health campaign is particularly important at this time in the history of the U.S. for several key reasons:

Increased Mental Health Issues: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems, and the campaign can help address the lingering effects.

Stigma Reduction: The involvement of the bishops can help reduce this stigma, encouraging more people to seek help and support.

Resource Accessibility: The campaign can help bridge gaps in accessibility to care by promoting available resources and advocating for better access.

Community Support: By focusing on mental health, the bishops can mobilize the inherent support in the Church to provide support, education, and outreach.

Moral and Ethical Guidance: The campaign provides a moral and ethical framework for understanding mental health issues, emphasizing the dignity of every person.

By addressing these aspects, the U.S. bishops’ mental health campaign can have a significant and positive impact on individuals and communities, promoting mental well-being and reducing the stigma of mental health issues in the U.S.