Mental

St. Dymphna of Gheel

Many people know St. Dymphna of Gheel as the patroness of people struggling with mental illness. Few seem to know her background or why she is named such.

There are various legends surrounding the story of Dymphna, but the core narrative is this: She was the daughter of a pagan chieftain in Ireland in the 7th Century. Her mother, who had been a Christian and had baptized Dymphna, died when her daughter was 14.   Her father was devastated and had a long period of protracted grief.  After a fruitless search for a second wife, his attention fell on Dymphna. Her resemblance to his beloved dead wife, coupled with his emotional and mental struggle after his wife’s death, drove him to entreat her to marry him herself. Horrified, Dymphna fled with her confessor, an elderly priest by the name of Gerebran, to the city of Gheel in Belgium.

Unfortunately, her father pursued her and found her. His men murdered Gerebran and then, when Dymphna refused to go with him, he beheaded her. 

Dymphna’s refusal to participate in this incestuous relationship led to her martyrdom. She has been named patroness of people with mental and emotional difficulties – not only because of the toll that her father’s mental illness took on her family but because of her own emotional and mental anguish.

Dymphna was buried in Gheel. When her body was discovered in the 13th century, cures and miracles were being attributed to her, especially for people with epilepsy and people with mental illness. 

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The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mental Illness

The sacrament of reconciliation can be a healing experience for a person troubled with mental illness. First and foremost, the confessor extends a compassionate and understanding welcome to the penitent. It is important that the penitent feel comfortable and secure in this setting. Once this is established, the priest can size up the situation depending on how well he knows the penitent. The penitent may be down on him/herself already, and it is important that this be a positive experience.  Once the penitent shows genuine trust in the priest, great strides can be made. That may take some time, depending on the history of the person and any trauma from the past.  

It will be helpful for the priest to give the person the opportunity to express what is most pressing on his/her heart. If this is matter for the sacrament, then, the priest can address this point with care to assure the person of his/her value and the forgiveness that God offers. If the person suffers with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (often manifested in scrupulosity), good pastoral practice should be used with emphasis on clarity and firmness along with compassion.

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Homily Preparation

Good homilists are always aware of the people they are addressing and their needs in light of the sacred scriptures of the given day. When we consider the incidence of mental illness in our congregations, we know that our words can soothe, or they can cut. Approximately one in four people have a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, and one in seventeen live with a persistent and severe condition. Further, one family in five are impacted by a mental illness experienced by a loved one. 

Thus, it is important to remember that some of the people addressed in a Sunday homily may either have a mental illness or be in close relationship with someone who does. Awareness of this will help the homilists to be realistic and concrete in their speaking.

First, language should always show respect for the persons dealing directly or indirectly with mental illness. [ Please refer to Section ___ of this book.]

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6 Week Bulletin Series

 

SAMPLE ARTICLES FOR BULLETINS & NEWSLETTERS

  It is recommended that the following be introduced with an article from the pastor asking the parish to be aware and involved at some level in outreach to persons with a mental illness and their families. After each article a contact person within the Faith Community should be identified for people who want further information.

 

Week 1 – First in a series of what our Faith Community can do to minister to those with mental illness and their families. 

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Mental Illness Links

Below is a list of links that contain valuable information and resources related to Mental Illness. NCPD does not vouchsafe the content of the related links. We provide the links in the hope that there is information on these websites that can be of aid. 

http://www.mentalhealthministries.net
Mental Health Ministries
has evolved into an ecumenical and interfaith outreach. It works with faith communities, advocacy groups, community organizations and mental health professionals. Our focus is on spirituality and mental illness. A distinction is made between spirituality and religion. Spirituality springs from a belief system that gives meaning to our lives. It grows out of our experience rather than doctrine. Religion, on the other hand, refers to the beliefs and practices associated with organized groups such as churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. We support a holistic approach to mental illness encompassing the mind, body and spirit.

http://www.pathways2promise.org
Pathways to Promise is an interfaith technical assistance and resource center which offers liturgical and educational materials, program models, and networking information to promote a caring ministry with people with mental illness and their families. These resources are used by people at all levels of faith group structures from local congregations to regional and national staff.


NAMI Faithnet: Faithnet is a branch of NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families. Founded in 1979, NAMI has affiliates in every state and in more than 1,100 local communities across the country.

 



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Welcoming and Appreciating People with Mental Illness As Valued Members of the Parish Community

 

Every parish has members who experience a serious mental illness or who have a close friend or family member who does. With this reality in mind, every parish must thoughtfully consider how it more fully can welcome people affected by mental illness into the life of the community in a way that values their gifts and contributions to the church family.

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Six Week Bulletin Series - Short Version

SAMPLE ARTICLES FOR BULLETINS & NEWSLETTERS

It is recommended that the following be introduced with an article from the pastor asking the parish to be aware and involved at some level in outreach to persons with a mental illness and their families. After each article a contact person within the Faith Community should be identified for people who want further information.

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Sample Mass Petitions

Sample petitions to be included in
the Prayers of the Faithful or as a Litany:

For persons with a mental illness, and their families that they may find effective treatment for their disease and understanding and acceptance in society, we pray to the Lord.

For our elected officials to come to an understanding of the need for increased funding for mental health care, we pray to the Lord.

For people who live on the streets without homes or hope, we pray to the Lord.

For families who strive to understand and help their loved ones with mental illness, we pray to the Lord.

For people with mental illness who are confined in jails and prisons, we pray to the Lord.

That the darkness of stigma, labels, exclusion and marginalization might be dispelled by the light of greater understanding, acceptance and respect for the dignity of every person, we pray to the Lord.

In thanksgiving for the compassion and dedication of mental health professionals and those who provide care, and for new discoveries in brain research, we pray to the Lord.

For each of us to reach out with support as we form a caring community, we pray to the Lord.
 

Click to open Sample Mass Petitions with

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Welcoming and Appreciating

Welcoming and Appreciating People with Mental Illness As
Valued Members of the Parish Community
 

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Catechetical Resources

In this section you will find information on materials for teaching about mental illness issues. It includes information on Peer Support, Suicide and how to implement an environment of Welcome and Appreciation to people with mental illness.

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