Diocese creates mental health ministry

Mental health ministry

Raging suicide statistics have led an American Catholic diocese to create a mental health ministry.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports over twice as many people died in 2020 by their own hand rather than someone else’s.

Once considered a mortal sin, suicide is viewed much more moderately today.

By bringing suicide into the light, clergy, clinicians and advocates hope to reduce its frequency and do more to help those left behind.

The Diocese of Phoenix is the latest US diocese to create a dedicated ministry of mental health.

Phoenix Bishop John Dolan announced the new ministry during the diocese’s first Mass of Remembrance for Suicide Victims.

He himself has been bereaved in this way – both a brother and sister died by suicide in separate incidents over a decade ago.

At the Mass, Dolan unveiled plans for the new office of Catholic Mental Health Ministry.

He said later that a diocesan office dedicated to mental health had been a goal of his since he was installed in August.

Its implementation was hastened by a gift from a local foundation that supports local religious and secular projects.

He says the new office will serve three purposes: education, accompaniment of those suffering, and advocacy for better policy and funding from government and other sources.

Education will involve informing fellow Catholics about the depth of mental health issues, he says.

The ministry will accompany those who struggle in the diocese’s parishes so they are not lost. Instead, Dolan says they’ll know they have a place at the table.

It also involves accompanying those who struggle with suicide loss.

“Those of you who are survivors of loss – hopefully, you know the church is here, reaching out to you, letting you know you are loved and that your loved ones are not forgotten.”

Each of the diocese’s 15 deaneries will host regular gatherings where people can share their stories and help one another.

The mental health ministry office will also promote a spirit of advocacy.

It will offer a voice for those who struggle with mental health. It will also ask those in leadership to make sure mental health is always at the fore of all our discussions, Dolan says.

The diocese will provide priests and deacons with a mental health “first-aid kit”. This is to guide them in responding to public requests for help.

Informing laity how the church’s positions on suicide and mental health have developed over the years is important too.

“It isn’t a lack of will. It is a mental disorder. That’s something we have to consider as we look ahead and continue Catholic mental health ministry,” Dolan points out.

For decades, the church’s practice was not to celebrate a funeral Mass for a suicide victim. That is no longer true.

“There are a lot of people out there hurting,” says a woman helping set up the office.

“We need to recognise it and talk about it.”


Where to get help

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What’s Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Additional reading

News category: Palmerston, World.

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