"People who suffer from mental illness need our help, our friendship, our outreach, our resources and our prayer," said Archbishop Miller, adding that people have little control over diseases like substance dependence and addiction.
The archbishop cited Pope Francis' words against treating drug addicts like "mere objects or broken machines." Rather, they must be "valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed" to help them avoid becoming victims of a "throwaway culture."
"Imitating Christ the Healer, the Church is obliged to bring His compassion to everyone in pain, whether physical, emotional or spiritual," Archbishop Miller said.
He suggested Catholics should invite those struggling with mental illness and addiction to be "fully integrated" into parish and school communities.
"Ask yourselves: do you include them and make them feel welcome, or do you shun them?" he asked. "Are you open to residential housing or community health centers in your own neighborhood?"
The archbishop noted the link between substance addiction and suicide in young people. He stressed the need for better psychiatric and psychological support for high risk and vulnerable age groups.
"Let us continue to reach beyond our pews and parish organizations, recognizing the face of Christ in the marginalized, the lonely, the homeless, the imprisoned, the mentally ill, and the addicted," he said.
Those who are socially isolated are more likely to engage in substance abuse, which furthers their isolation.
"More Canadians now live alone than at any other time in history," the archbishop said, blaming excessive individualism, a culture of instant gratification, as well as poverty, economic uncertainty and family disintegration.
"Drug use and abuse appeal to those seeking to escape suffering, loneliness and isolation," he said, noting that communities that are welcoming and close-knit tend to suffer lower levels of substance abuse and other social problems.
To respond to drug addiction and abuse, the archbishop recommended advocacy for action from elected officials and bodies that regulate opioids, efforts to improve prescription practices and pain management, better education in schools, financial support for organizations that can respond to the problem, and parish support services for recovery methods like 12-step programs.
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