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Rome Reports

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Eliminating mental health stigma in society and within the Church


Pope Francis dedicated the month of November to praying for people who suffer from depression. It's a problem that has only worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.

POPE FRANCIS
November 2021

Let us pray that people who suffer from depression or burn-out will find support and a light that opens them up to life.

The prayer video was created with the support of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, a lay association of Christian faithful that provides spiritual support to people affected by mental illness.

DEACON ED SHOENER
President, Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers

“It's wonderful to see Pope Francis naming it, so to speak, and talking openly about mental illness and suicide. He addressed an association of mental health professionals over the summer in Rome, and called for the elimination of the stigma within the broader society and also within the Church.”

Deacon Shoener is all too familiar with the reality of mental illness. In 2016, he lost his daughter, Katie, to suicide. After her death, he wrote a short obituary saying that although Katie had suffered from bipolar disorder and died by suicide, her mental illness is not what defined her.

DEACON ED SHOENER
President, Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers

“(The obituary) got picked up and went viral because apparently it spoke to what so many people who live with mental illness experience: that they're defined by their illness and that they have to live with stigma and even discrimination, and that when someone loses a loved one to suicide, people are sort of set off to the side.”

Mental health has been on the Pope's radar since even before the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, it was one of the topics brought up during the United States bishops' ad limina meetings with the Pope in 2019.

BISHOP JOHN DOLAN
Diocese of San Diego (California)

“I shared with the Pope my own walk through losing people who have died by suicide: my brother, my sister and her husband, all through suicide. I had hoped that the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, would also write a letter, some pastoral letter in this response. And I said, 'And honestly, Your Holiness, I would hope that you would be able to do the same.' And he said, 'I will do it.'”

The support and resources offered by entities like the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers are a concrete step toward overcoming the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

sanctuarymentalhealth.org

CT
Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries