Support people with mental illness Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, May. 14, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

A close relative in my family, who is now deceased, struggled for many years with mental illness.

Although she sought help from psychiatrists, had regular counseling sessions, and took prescribed drugs, she still dealt with the problem of depression.

Family members did not know what to do, to the point where some of us also got counseling to get advice on how to cope with her problems. Seeking advice from priests was also helpful, both for her and for family members.

May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, so it is an appropriate time so consider how we can learn more about mental illness and support people who are dealing with it in their lives.

With the coronavirus pandemic, there is also concern that more people will be dealing with mental health issues.

I found much helpful information on the website of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) at

The website has a section on five ways to build awareness and support people with mental illness, especially in your parish:

1. Educate yourself about mental illness.

In order to support people with mental illness in your parish, it is helpful to be aware of statistics, treatments, and supports. Browse this evidence-based resource guide about mental illness for faith and community leaders or take a mental health first aid course.

2. Learn from people who experience mental illness.

Take extra time to learn from those who experience mental illness. Check out stories from the NCPD website, or invite members of your parish to share their story. Share NCPD’s video Welcome and Valued with your parish and use the Welcome and Valued manual for guiding questions and resources. Include the perspectives of parents, siblings, spouses, children, and extended family. Their experience with mental illness is also valuable for the parish community.

3. Pray about mental illness in liturgical settings and prayer groups.

In addition to raising awareness about mental llness, it is important to devote extra time to prayer during mental health commemorations. Include mental health petitions in the Prayers of the Faithful, or order free St. Dymphna prayer cards for your parish or prayer groups. Participate in the National Weekend of Prayer for Faith, Hope, and Life from September 6 to 8 organized by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

4. Post about mental illness and mental health in your parish bulletin, on your parish website, and on social media.

A simple note about mental health can convey to parishioners with mental illness that they are welcome and valued. These posts can also remind the parish community of the prevalence of mental illness and urge them to address mental health concerns. Post a picture on your website or social media to share the fall mental illness awareness dates. (Remember to include an “alt-text” or include the text of the image in the caption so that the picture is accessible.)

5. Share mental illness pamphlets with your parish.

NCPD’s Council on Mental Illness created A Pastoral Response to Mental Illness to provide recommendations for parish leaders, as well as information about advocacy, recovery, suicide prevention, and addiction. To order copies of this booklet contact NCPD at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 202-529-2933.

One in four families will at some time have to cope with mental illness and its effects on a loved one and the family unit.

It’s important for all of us as individuals, families, and parish communities to learn more about how we can support people with mental illness.