I had originally wanted to write and post this today in the morning, but when I got out what I thought I wanted to reflect on, it didn’t feel right. It said all the right words, but the tone was off, and the objective was off from what I intended in the thought process. As it turned out, I had the opportunity this morning to attend my parish’s semi-annual Anointing Mass, which administers the sacrament of the sick, and for healing. It’s a really wonderful experience. It’s similar to a regular mass with the inclusion of the anointing with oil. The readings are related to sickness and health, and the homily is always inspirational. The range of people attending is literally the range of people who attend the church. Residents of nursing homes come by bus. Some people are in wheelchairs, some use walkers, some have heart conditions, joint problems, MS, migraines, all sorts of ailments including mental illnesses and health issues.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I learned that last year at my Diocese’s annual Spring Enrichment program. One of the attending vendors was the Diocese’s Consultation Center. They gave me this bracelet,
and provided resources. Obviously anything with the Diocese will fall under Catholic doctrine, but the idea that the official church is to welcome and help those of their people struggling with these issues is a big step in the right direction.
During my own parish’s Prayer of the Faithful, they have included mental health ailments along with the other sick mentioned for as long as I’ve personally been attending masses with my priest.
Last week my Diocese held the Spring Enrichment. It was a much smaller event than in previous years, so I was surprised to see several vendor tables. They are mostly publishers related to Catholic School education, books written by the keynote speaker, pastoral care and other educational opportunities, and this year, it was very unexpected to see a table manned by the NYS group of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They had pamphlets and resources for self-hairm and suicide prevention and many of the things their organization covers. The significance of having them there, in their own right, promoting their organization, appearing to me without any restrictions as far as Catholic doctrine; no limitations on what they were offering.
I was very happy to see this as historically many religious groups have upheld a stigma against mental illness and the taking of medication to help those illnesses and issues. I am so glad to see more open acceptance of mental health as a medical issue, which it’s always been despite being hidden for so long. It’s so important that we normalize and eliminate the stigma of mental illness and it is long past time.
It was like a light being turned on in the dark.