Catholic at Home: Faith & mental health

My mom suffered from post-partum depression.  I’m the oldest of four girls, and I remember the most about what that was like.  Overall, there was so much love. But there were also days where it was difficult for her to get out of bed, times where there were a lot of tears, and sometimes even some anger.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year, the campaign takes on even greater importance, as the need for mental health support has dramatically increased.

Before the pandemic, one in ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression; during the pandemic (in July 2020) four in ten adults in the U.S. acknowledged those symptoms.  Specifically, studies show people are experiencing negative changes with sleeping and eating. There’s also been an increase in alcohol consumption or substance abuse and worsening chronic conditions.

The negative impact on mental health and well-being is hitting young people, too. In January, the New York Times reported an early warning system among schools in Nevada had tracked nearly 3,100 mental health episodes in ten months. Eighteen students had taken their own lives.

In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research from June of 2020, 75% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 reported struggling with at least one mental health condition.

These are hard statistics to take in, and may even cause you to wonder, “Where is God in this?”

In the depths of our despair, we can feel alone, even when we have people around us who love us. The Passion teaches us that Jesus experienced that, too. He said, “And the one who sent me. Is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him” (John 8:29).  But then later, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

In the end, we know, love wins. Faith wins.  Hope shines through.  Christ is risen, and with that understanding, we are able to continue on, in hope.

As Christians, we believe that life is a sacred gift and that love is central to healing. Our recovery as a society from Covid-19 will require keeping our hearts open to love, healing, awareness, understanding and respect. Because of the way God has connected us to each other and to Him, mental health is both and individual and shared.

The connection between faith and wellness is well-researched, and in an increasingly secular world, we must hold on to the belief that faith can have positive effects on our mental health.   There are many studies on this, but do we need a study to verify how we feel when we receive the Eucharist?

Next month, mental health experts will come together for an online forum to offer information and support as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.  I am honored to serve as moderator, and I encourage you and/or anyone you know who would benefit from the discussion to join us.  We’ll share details soon.   In the meantime,

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –  Romans 15:13