Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers: Faith and Recovery
Mental Health Ministry in the Catholic Church is growing because many people see the need for a ministry focused on the spiritual needs of those living with a mental illness and the family members and other people who love and support people living with a mental illness.
Mental health ministers see Christ in those who live with a mental illness. They practice a ministry of service and presence; like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), they do not look the other way or walk past those living with a mental illness but instead pour the oil and wine of the Gospel into their lives. They walk with people living with a mental illness to help them find the support and services that they need.
Mental health ministers are inspired by Saint Pope John Paul II who wrote:
“Christ took all human suffering on himself; even mental illness . . . whoever suffers from mental illness “always” bears God’s image and likeness in himself, as does every human being. In addition, he “always” has the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”
“It is everyone’s duty to make an active response: our actions must show that mental illness does not create insurmountable distances, nor prevent relations of true Christian charity with those who are its victims. Indeed, it should inspire a particularly attentive attitude towards these people who are fully entitled to belong to the category of the poor to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs (cf. Mt 5:3).” We see persons living with a mental illness as unique individuals who are not defined by their illness. They have much to offer the Church and the community because living with an illness gives them unique insights into suffering, humility, compassion, friendship and love. Mental health ministers work to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that people living with a mental illness encounter in the Church and in human society.
Together, we can work to make mental health ministry an integral ministry in the Church that is available in every Catholic parish and community throughout the world. We can help to achieve this by:
One – Providing spiritual support to people living with a mental illness to assist them to live in holiness and encouraging actions to prevent any discrimination that would prevent them from full participation in the life of the Church. Mental health ministers do not provide diagnosis, counseling, treatment, medical assistance or behavioral health support, but instead may provide assistance in helping people living with a mental illness find treatment and medical services in their community.
Two – Providing spiritual support and comfort to the parents, family members and friends of people living with a mental illness, in their efforts to care for and help their loved ones. Mental health ministers do not provide diagnosis, counseling, treatment, medical assistance or behavioral health support, but instead they may provide assistance in helping find additional educational and other support services to aid in their understanding of mental illness.
Three – Assisting the clergy and other ministers in the Church with the tools, methods and insights that allow them to confidently minister to people with a mental illness without fear or prejudice.
Reference: Deacon Ed Shoener, Diocese of Scranton, PA and President of the ACMHM. Cathedral of St. Peter, PA, USA. www.catholicmhm.org