As your co-directors of evangelical charity, Kathy and I come to you today to speak a little bit about mental illness and what we hope can be our Family of Parishes’ response to this ever-increasing illness and the stigma attached to it. But first, let’s consider: What if someone told you that you or your child has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or some other type of serious mental illness?
Serious mental illness affects over 1 in 20 people – it is a common illness, but we don’t like to talk much about it. And nearly 50 percent of us will have to deal with some type of psychological disorder during our lifetime. When serious mental illness strikes, you as a parent, grandparent or friend would be concerned beyond belief. As the one with the diagnosis, at first you would try to hide it. You are overwhelmed by the stigma – the social stigma. So many people do not understand – some will be afraid of you – you will be looked at differently. You will be worried about being lonely and misunderstood and not being able to find work. And then the realization will sink in that there is no real cure. If you are lucky there may be medicines and therapy that will allow you to live with the mental illness – but not everyone is so lucky.
If you have never experienced a serious mental illness, it is hard to understand what such illnesses can do. How the illness can totally disrupt a person’s life. Persons with a mental illness can, at times, be difficult to be around, their behavior can be irrational and frightening. Try living with uncontrollable voices in your head – try living with uncontrollable anxieties and racing thoughts that fly through your mind like jets – try living with a deep dark irrational, relentless depression that makes you think you are unlovable, and the world would be better off without you – where suicide is not seen as a choice, but as an inevitable fate.
So, what should we, as Christians, as members of the Catholic Church in Downtown Detroit do about this? Well, as in all things, we should look to Christ. Pope Saint John Paul II said this in his 1996 address to health care workers, titled In the Image and Likeness of God: Illness of the Human Mind: “Christ took all human suffering on himself, even mental illness. Yes, even this affliction, which perhaps seems the most absurd and incomprehensible – configures the sick person to Christ and gives him a share in his redeeming passion. Whoever suffers from mental illness always bears God’s image and likeness”.
The Church is not called to cure mental illness – that is the task of medical science and the professional health workers. We are called — you and I, here and now — to be a healing presence, to help people find wholeness and peace in the midst of the illness. The Bible uses the word “Shalom” – which is a right relationship with God. Our call is to help people with a mental illness find a healing presence, to experience God’s Shalom. So, Kathy and I would like to invite you to consider a role in the Mental Health Ministry. To help you discern this invitation, consider these questions: Am I a good listener, not exhibiting judgment? Is the Lord calling me to .. learn more about the Mental Health Ministry? participate in Mental Health Ministry Planning Committee? be present when someone needs to talk?
Please prayerfully discern these questions. And, of course, if you have any questions, or would like to be a part of this ministry, please contact Kathy or Mike.
Michael Carsten, 313-309-1277 or email
Kathleen Carsten, 313-309-1265 or email