One of the women that I spoke to for my article shared with me that it was soon after praying a deliverance prayer that she was hospitalized for her depression. She doesn't consider this a coincidence – she considers it the moment when she finally allowed Jesus to enter those places of her life that she hadn't let him enter yet, and through that prayer he led her to the miracle of modern medicine and psychological help that she needed to begin to fully heal.
A great source for healing and deliverance prayers is the book "Unbound: A practical guide to deliverance" by Neal Lozano. This is the book (and corresponding ministry) that I have seen most often endorsed by reliable, holy priests. (There are likely other healing books and ministries available as well, but I would ask a trusted priest to review them before engaging with any of them.)
Some parishes are also starting to offer healing Masses specifically for intentions of healing of various kinds, where there are often priests and lay faithful available to pray very intentionally with you, and it seems like the Church is just starting to unlock the power and graces available through these particular Masses.
3. If a friend or family member reaches out to you about mental illness, don't dismiss them, love them. Listen to their concerns, talk with them when they are lonely, reach out frequently even if your friend might not always respond or want to go out.
"People don't enjoy time spent with depressed and anxious people. Yet we need people to sit with us, to pull us out of the dark mess that is our minds," one interviewee told me.
"That can mean sitting silently during a movie, or reading in the same room, or trying to take me out for a walk and understanding I'm not being a jerk if I don't respond much or seem surly – I'm sick. I need accountability to do the most basic human activities."
Help them get connected to sources – priests and psychologists – that can offer them expert help. If you're looking for Catholic psychologists, your local diocesan office or Catholic Charities office is a good place to start.
But it's also ok to recognize your limits. One person I interviewed said she appreciated it when her friends established clear boundaries for the sake of their own peace of mind and for the sake of the friendship. Being up front about boundaries and establishing them early is the best approach, rather than realizing after the fact that you've crossed a line.
It's also important to remember that God, through both prayer and mental professionals, is the ultimate healer. While it's so very important to be like Christ to them, it's ok to recognize that you are not Christ, and will not be their ultimate source of healing or happiness. As a friend with depression once told me, it's not worth dragging other people down with you, so it's perfectly ok to recognize your limits.
4. Someone in a comment box asked about whether priests are given sufficient training to deal with these situations. While the psychologists I spoke with had, for the most part, excellent relationships with many local priests, I also spoke with several lay faithful who had less than desirable responses from priests when it comes to mental illness.
When I spoke with a recently-ordained friend of mine, he said that most seminaries in his experience have a house counselor who speaks with every seminarian at some point, and does ongoing work with seminarians. He also said that everything in his training has taught him to not overstep his bounds when it comes to psychological issues.
So it seems that while the training is there, in practice it does not always play out perfectly. Perhaps ongoing training throughout the priesthood is necessary, as well as more open relationships between Catholic psychologists and priests.
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5. The prayer life of someone struggling with mental illness might look rather different than someone without mental illness. It's probably going to be rather difficult for someone with severe anxiety to meditate in front of the Blessed Sacrament for long periods of time. Those who have been hurt by the Church may find going to Mass difficult, or sometimes impossible, and the best way that they can love God in their circumstances is to follow what their psychologists have told them.
"Sometimes one of the most spiritual things I do in a day is take my anxiety medicine," an interviewee told me.
6. This is an important topic and conversation that needs to continue. Someone I spoke to for this article put it best:
"We are so comfortable as Catholics talking about theology of the body and human dignity, but what about theology of the mind? I think Catholics with mental health problems can pave a way to balancing the spiritual and the practical by being vulnerable. The problem I have seen is that we lean one way or the other in our world, and we need both."