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Mental health is an essential part of wellbeing

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

February 12, 2020

World Day of the Sick occurs on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 2020. Lourdes is the world-wide destination of so many pilgrimages. In that mountainous region of France, our Lady wished to demonstrate her maternal love, especially toward the suffering and sick.

On that site, since the day of the apparition to Bernadette Soubirous, Jesus has, through His Mother’s privileged intercession, healed pain and sickness and restored many of her daughters and sons to health.
Even when they don’t receive the desired gift of healing, pilgrims are able to receive something much more important: conversion of heart, peace and interior joy.

This Feast Day reminds you and me of our responsibility to pray for all those who are hurting.

A serious affliction that haunts many is mental illness. We won’t find many who suffer this disease numbered among the pilgrims headed for Lourdes.

For too long, our society has minimized, ridiculed, isolated, ostracized or ignored the devastating effects of this disease.

Mental illness is the cause for so much heartbreak suffered by the person afflicted, family members, as well as those victimized from the violent behavior that sometimes is the consequence of un-treated mental illness.

As you know, in some tragic cases, mental illness can lead one into such a state of hopelessness and despair that the taking of his/her life is seen as the only relief or remedy for the pain endured.

Mental health is essential for our overall well-being, yet mental health challenges are more difficult to identify. As you know, many today are afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addictions, both public health crises of our generation.

Addiction is increasingly recognized as a medical, not a criminal problem – a disease of the brain, not a disease of choice.

Attentiveness, patience, hope and knowledge of treatment options are characteristics we should exhibit when caring for our sisters and brothers who suffer, but these are especially essential to meet the unique challenges of those afflicted with mental illness.

We extend gratitude to health-care workers, medical and paramedical personnel and researchers – especially those dedicated to discovering new treatments for those who suffer.

As we remember that every person is due the dignity and respect of one created in God’s image and likeness, we pray for all those who seek wholeness of mind, body and spirit.

We pray for family members who care for loved ones who are hurting.

May the Blessed Virgin help us all to witness that the only authentic answer to pain, suffering and death is Christ our Lord, who died and rose for you and me.

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