by Tom Racunas
It’s not October yet but this can’t wait — mainly because I don’t get to write another article until November! I want to tell you now that October is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental Illness is a disability that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.
In 2016, an estimated of 44.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had a mental illness. Young adults aged 18-25 had the highest prevalence of any mental illness (22.1%) compared to adults aged 26-49 (21.1%) and aged 50 and older (14.5%) (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018).
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, behavior problems, anxiety and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children.
Of all children between the ages of 2 and 17, 6.1 million have received an ADHD diagnosis. Some 4.5 million children have a diagnosed behavior problem. Another 4.4 million children have diagnosed anxiety and 1.9 million children have diagnosed depression (Ghandour, et.al., The Journal of Pediatrics, 2018).
In a recent editorial that appeared in the Kansas City Star, the author stated: “Though friendship, belonging and shared purpose are intangible, they are as essential to humans as air and bread. Yet nearly half of Americans say they are often lonely. Twenty percent of millennials report that they have no friends at all.”
Mental health involves both a public debate (for policy changes) and “personal responsibility to friends and acquaintances — a duty of active, empathetic, invasive concern” (Gerson, 2019).
One in four families is dealing with mental illness and its effects on a loved one and the family unit. So, statistically, 25% of families in every parish in our archdiocese are impacted by a member who has a chronic or episodic mental health condition.
There is still a dark stigma surrounding mental illness. The stigma forces many to hide the severity of their symptoms. Families hide symptoms of a loved one. Many stop coming to Mass and participating in parish activities due to the stigma.
These are our brothers and sisters who are marginalized! They are members of the body of Christ who are suffering! Our Lord calls us to reach out — to show our loving care and offer support.
We are our brother’s keeper. Collectively as a courageous parish or brave parishioner, we must open our eyes so we know who is not with us. Our voices must rise to say, “You are cared for. Allow us (me) to help.”
A short awareness workshop offered by the special-needs ministry can show your parish how to fight the stigma by learning the signs of mental illness and how to reach out to those living with the illness. For more information, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.