Breaking down the stigma of mental illness

Mental illness

Caring for people living with mental illness is something many of us may have to do at some stage.

On 9 October, the Catholic Church in New Zealand marks “Support Life Sunday.”

Dr John Kleinsman, Director of the Nathaniel Centre for bioethics, says it is important this year’s campaign helps people hear those who have first-hand experience of mental illness.

“By making mental health a focus, we hope to break down further and lessen the stigma and discrimination which still surrounds mental illness and encourage more open and honest conversations,” he says.

“Our schools and faith communities should be places of positive connection that lift people up, and we want to encourage people to reflect on the extent to which that is the case, as well as ways of becoming more supportive, uplifting and inclusive,” Kleinsman says.

Overseas research shows stigma and fears surrounding mental illness mean sufferers are less likely to get the level of pastoral care provided for people with physical illnesses.

Catholic Bishop of Auckland Stephen Lowe says about 50 to 80 per cent of us will experience some form of mental distress, addiction challenges or both.

“Mental illness is a major issue which touches every family in some way,” he says.

“And yet we don’t talk about it nearly enough.”

Lowe believes that as a Church, we are beginning to deal with and help people with mental health issues.

“We must also realise that we can and need to do better as faith communities in acknowledging mental illness and accompanying people with it.

“It’s all about putting into action our core belief in the unconditional dignity of the human person,” Lowe says.

This year’s parish resources for Support Life Sunday include a social media campaign that highlights critical facts about mental illness and features quotes from people living with a mental illness or caring for someone who is mentally ill.

Parish and school resources for Support Life Sunday are now available.

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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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