“We know that it takes one to eleven years before a person will seek professional help, so we’re hoping these partnerships with churches will help us not only identify people who need help, but start the journey earlier,” Hudson said.
Shynett said that there can be a sense of stigma about seeking mental health treatment, and so her group is "starting with stigma" in trying to increase its reach in communities.
Deacon Ed Shoener, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, lost his daughter Katie to suicide in 2016.
He told CNA that Katie’s death and its aftermath showed him that “there’s a real longing for the church to enter in more deeply” and provide “a more understanding presence” to support those with mental illness, and their caregivers.
Catholic clergy and leaders, Shoener said, should be “open and personal” with their own connections to or struggles with mental illness, so that parishioners feel comfortable discussing it with them.
Shoener co-authored the books “Responding to Suicide: A Pastoral Handbook for Catholic Leaders,” and “When a Loved One Dies by Suicide.” He said his association was formed “to create a network for those involved in this ministry.”
“We also talk in the book about what the church teaches about suicide and mental illness,” Shoener said, saying that there can be misconceptions on this teaching.
“The church now understands that mental illness can drive people to suicide,” he said, saying it is not always a deliberate, rational act. “The church prays for those who have died by suicide.”