Bringing Christ to Families Experiencing Mental Health Challenges
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fall River is helping parishes within the Diocese to establish a Mental Health Ministry. The Mental Health Ministry, a national model, strives to provide a safe, supportive space in the lives of people with mental health or substance use issues, as well as providing support for their family members and caregivers. Its purpose is to invite, support and provide acceptance to those who may feel isolated and alone. Whatever our situation, be it physical health problems, relationship issues, or mental health concerns, we share the common knowledge that we are all children of God, and are deserving of compassion, understanding, and love. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that one in five Americans has a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder. The goal of the MH Ministry is to ensure that no one feels alone in their struggle with mental illness or substance use issue, relying on a team of volunteer Mental Health Ministers to accompany those experiencing mental health or substance use issues on their faith journey. Parish Mental Health Ministries will also promote a non-judgmental environment, where isolation and stigma dissipate as a supportive community is created.
Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM)
The Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (CMHM) is a Lay Association of the Christian Faithful whose members are called to be a healing presence in the lives of people with mental illness. Members of the CMHM see Christ in those who live with a mental illness. Members practice a ministry of service and presence; like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), they do not look the other way or walk past those living with a mental illness but instead pour the oil and wine of the Gospel into their lives. Members walk with people living with a mental illness to help them find the support and services that they need. We see persons living with a mental illness as unique individuals who are not defined by their illness. They have much to offer the Church and the community because living with an illness gives them unique insights into suffering, humility, compassion, friendship and love. We work to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that people living with a mental illness encounter in the Church and in human society.
Mental Health Challenges
Mental Health challenges can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. In the vast majority of cases, mental health challenges are not the result of personal weakness and are not due to a lack of character. Mental health challenges, in general, are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth, brain chemistry imbalances, personal trauma, among many others. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in individual treatment plans.
There is a high prevalence of mental health challenges in every faith community. One in five families has a member with a diagnosable mental illness. One in seventeen people live with a persistent or severe mental illness. Often individuals or families turn to their parish community for support and guidance. Regrettably, some parishes fail to respond due to limited understanding of mental illness or lack of awareness of the power of supportive relationships. CCFR is working with parishes throughout the Diocese to make a commitment to become a faith community that both understands mental illness and can provide compassionate support. What are mental health challenges? For a list and description, visit: SAMHSA, WHO, NAMI.
Spiritual Companionship and Practical Support
Our Diocesan mental health ministry program exists to serve individuals and families experiencing mental illness and substance use issues by offering God’s hope and love through encouragement, practical support and prayer. Mental Health Ministry volunteers may have experienced mental illness or substance use issues, are family members of those who have experienced mental illness or substance use issues, or have worked with those affected by mental illness or substance use issues. They have a heart for giving. Let us walk with you through your mental health or substance use experiences and support you in whatever ways we can.
Mental Health Ministry volunteers are familiar with the many public and private support services available to individuals and families in their local communities and will help locate suitable providers. Volunteers stay in touch with those individuals and families using community services to help ensure that positive outcomes are occurring. They advocate for parishioners within the MHM program when services do not meet the needs of individuals or families. Mental health ministry team members do not function in a professional capacity. They do not diagnose or provide treatment and do not provide services which should only be offered by medical, psychological, social work or counseling practitioners.
The ministry team may provide mental health educational opportunities for the larger parish community on a scheduled basis. Requests for information about mental illness can be directed to any ministry team member. Ministry team leaders are available to consult with parish clergy, staff and lay leaders on matters related to mental health and wellness. Join Pope Francis every 2nd Monday has he prays for those experiencing mental health challenges – CLICK TO PRAY – Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
Forming a Parish Team
Pope Francis said it is necessary to take action to “fully overcome the stigma that mental illness is often tainted with”. (ANSA en Vatican, June 25, 2021). The Mental Health Ministry is a step toward that action. In order to ensure the success of this ministry, we need the help of volunteers who are willing to be trained to simply accompany others and provide a welcoming environment that recognizes the child of God, not just an illness or label. Our volunteers are trained in appropriate procedures designed to maintaining the privacy of those with whom they relate. Our parishes offer assistance because we love, care for, and want the best for our families and neighbors who are impacted by mental health or substance use issues.
Spirituality and religion can provide a sense of security and social structure and those beliefs can often be a strong coping mechanism through trying times. Mental Health Ministry Volunteers provide support and accompaniment for parishioners who may feel stigmatized or unwelcomed within their faith community. Being an active member of a close-knit religious community can provide structure, support and a sense of acceptance, all of which are beneficial to mental health and wellbeing.
Hope is a FREE chat service providing encouragement and strategies on how to manage everyday stress and anxiety using Chatbot technology.
Text “Hi” to Hope at 1-202-949-7249 to get instant support or visit https//www.facebook.com/HopeCCUSA
Start Code: CCAOKC
- Hope is confidential, private, and available 24/7.
- Proven, faith-based, emotional and mental support service.
- Hope offers proven technology to offer custom mental health help when and where you need it. She is used by over 13 million users world wide.
- Hope does NOT diagnose illnesses. Hope is not meant to replace trained professionals.
- Hope is NOT intended for crisis interventions. If a text suggests an escalation to crisis (such as mention of death, suicide, or domestic violence), users may get a phone call from a LIVE human counselor for additional support and to explore resources and options to help them.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the
Suicide Hotline • 800-273-8255
Call or Text 988
- MA Behavioral Health Help Line (BHHL)
1-833-773-2445 – (24/7)
National Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) – (24/7)
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Catholic Charities USA
- National Council on Mental Wellbeing
The mission of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is to pray and act upon the challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church identified by the Pope in his monthly prayer intentions.
Click To Pray is a digital community of prayer where you can share the intentions of the Holy Father and pray together with others. The community builds bridges between generations, where we all pray as one.