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Exploring the ‘Gift of Faith and Mental Health’ this May

Posted : May-02-2023

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Fr. Stephan Kappler is the President and Chief Psychologist of Southdown Institute. In light of the upcoming day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health across the the archdiocese, he shares with readers some of the strong connections between faith and mental health.

1. What is the impetus behind Mental Health in the Faith Communities Awareness Sunday on May 7?

In any given year, “1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness” (Canadian Mental Health Association [CMHA], 2021). That number includes people of faith. In fact, many of us know of a loved one who is experiencing a mental health issue, or maybe we, ourselves, have been experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or have been struggling with an addiction. Often, faith-filled Catholics do not feel okay to talk about mental health issues, worried that they may be misunderstood or judged. There is no need for that. In Canada, May is traditionally known as Mental Health Awareness Month, and we want to promote that message within our faith communities as well. This year, we hope that conversations will begin, or increase, among parishioners, parish staffs, the clergy, and other ministry leaders, to promote mental health awareness and, at the same time, normalize mental health struggles.

2. What is the goal of the Southdown event The Gift of Faith and Mental Health taking place on May 12 at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Etobicoke? How are you hoping it helps Catholics?

The day offers an opportunity for people of faith to gather in a supportive Catholic environment to learn strategies for coping with distress, such as resilience. We will also explore ways that we can utilize our faith and spirituality to navigate the challenges of day-to-day life. The day includes a question and answer session with our mental health team members. 

3. How can faith help with mental health struggles? 

Our faith is a precious gift and an enormously powerful resource for mental health and well-being. Here are some of the many ways that faith can help with mental health struggles:

Our faith:

  • gives us purpose
  • gifts us with a path of stability and structure
  • invites us to participate in a supportive faith community
  • encourages mindfulness
  • allows us to find meaning and light, even in the darkest moments
  • invites us to admit to imperfection, and our struggles
  • offers forgiveness and reconciliation
  • grounds us in the unconditional love, and infinite mercy of our Lord
  • motivates us to live with kindness and compassion, and to serve others
  • empowers us to trust the healing love of the Good Shepherd.

4. Are there any specific faith-based activities you suggest Catholics take part in order garner a sense of wellness on a regular basis?

There is a wide range of faith-based activities that, when practiced on a regular basis, can garner a sense of wellness. For example:

  • live an active life, filled with gratitude
  • mindfully pay attention to God’s grace in our daily lives
  • journal daily, and maintain a gratitude journal
  • pray often, meditate daily
  • participate in a supportive and welcoming parish community: celebrate the Sacraments, pray, and engage in ministries of service
  • connect meaningfully with the Lord, embracing the gift of the real and healing presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

For more information, please visit https://www.archtoronto.org/mentalhealth