"Priests may obtain therapy from a variety of disciplines including Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Marriage Family Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other licensed professional counselors. The type of therapy can be tailored to the needs of the priest to include but not limited to psychodynamic Therapy, trauma-informed therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and affirmation therapy," she said.
While rural areas may face a lack of counselors, Hunt noted, there has been an increase in telemedicine, where priests can access therapy through video-platforms.
Hunt said psychological healing is best addressed through a holistic approach - a combination of biological, psychological, social and spiritual efforts. She said that while medication is not always necessary, it can be helpful, especially when coupled with counseling.
However, she added that some medications, like Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), have an occasional side effect, and people may continue to have recurring anxiety and depression throughout their life.
"SSRIs improve many symptoms of anxiety and depression through their biochemical action on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and others … With more balance again in the neurotransmitter system, many symptoms improve including but not limited to panic, chronic anxiety levels, low mood, sleep or appetite issues, fatigue, lack of enjoyment of things once enjoyed and suicidal thinking," she said.
"As with all medications, there can be side effects. In the case of SSRIs these tend to be quite mild and short-lived such as nausea and headache. There are very rare but serious effects which can include increased agitation, restlessness or suicidal thinking."
In order to address the possibility of suicide among priests, Dr. Moore told CNA that dioceses should focus strongly on education regarding suicide awareness and suicide prevention methods.
She said the topic should be addressed at the pulpit, and dioceses should also make more resources available, including the suicide hotline number and health care professionals. She also said priests should educate themselves through books designed to address their needs. Hunt mentioned "Preventing Suicide: A Handbook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors" by Karen Mason.
For her part, Moore applauded initiatives the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky has begun to support suicide prevention and mental health. She the dioceses has provided resources and sought to be more sympathetic to the deceased and their families.
"[I am] very pleased that the Diocese of Lexington, which is led by Bishop John Stowe, has been very much an ally in putting out messages around being attuned and being sensitive to people who are in crisis … but then also those people who've lost a loved one to suicide, making sure that the loved one who died is not demonized, and that the loved ones are provided resources."
Father Anthony Sciarappa, the parochial vicar of Holy Spirit Parish of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, told CNA about his experience with therapy and mental health. He said, during his first year of seminary, he struggled with anxiety and depression.
"We had lots of events as seminarians where we put on our seminary uniform and we were supposed to meet with people, talk with people and all that was overwhelming. I would be physically, like, ill and sick, just paralyzed with that."
"I have been suffering from anxiety and depression and I thought that's just how everyone lives and that was just normal," he said.
Sciarappa's bishop lived at the seminary where he studied. About six months into Sciarappa's formation, the bishop, having spoken with the seminary faculty, encouraged the young seminarian to enter into therapy.
"When the bishop told me, I think I just started crying and his office right there, because it was just so overwhelming to be faced with the fact that I do need help," he said.
It was a difficult concept to grasp, he noted, because therapy and mental illness were not topics typically discussed during his childhood. He said, among other stigmas, he considered therapy to be a tool for crazy people.
"I didn't know anybody who had done this before. It wasn't something that was ever just talked about in my circles growing up," he said.
He went to a therapist for about three years. He went back to counseling during major seminary in Washington D.C. He described therapy as both a difficult and valuable process.
During counseling, Sciarappa said, he had to work through "core wounds" and the issues affected by habits learned during childhood. He said, "going through that is really hard work."
"There were so many days I'd be exhausted after everything, but once [I brought] those things into the light I could make more sense of my life."
It got easier as he progressed through the process, Sciarappa noted, stating that he began to acknowledge the fruits of therapy and witness its impact on his health. He said, because of therapy, he learned the tools and skills to cope with depression and anxiety. He said it helped to better understand himself and what to expect from these kinds of struggles
"It was like mechanisms and how to cope and strategies," he said. "Now we see what's going on with the problem and why that's going on. For me, finding out why I struggled with this then helped me deal with it more and more."
When asked about how to best priests can maintain mental health, Sciarappa stressed the importance of outside support, including spiritual direction, close friendships, and a priest support group to which he belongs.
The priestly support group meets once a month at one of the member's rectories. At each meeting, there are two moderators, one a trained therapist, to help the team keep on track.
He said the group discusses personal struggles, like loneliness, but also struggles particular to priests, including the clerical abuse scandals, and priest relocation. Sciarappa said it is significant to have peers to confide in. It is not appropriate to be as open with parishioners, he added, noting it is nevertheless valuable to have community among the laity.
"It's so important to have a brother priest so he can talk honestly about stuff, about difficulties, about insecurities," he said. "I'm not going to spill my guts out to the random parishioner-- that would be unhealthy for them and for me."
"I think it's [valuable to have] supportive, close friends, priests, laypeople. That's the biggest thing," he said. "I'll talk about different things in those different circles or talk about them in different ways, but that way nothing that is going on stays in the darkness."
Sciarappa said it's difficult to enter into suffering places, recognizing one's need for help and therapy. However, he said the experience has also given him more empathy and allowed him to truly experience the grace of God.
"It's given me tools where I can recognize it in other people. The big thing … it's made me a more empathetic person," he said.
"Going through that suffering and having Christ redeem it and heal me more and more, when I speak to people about hope, when I speak to people [about] how healing can happen, I can speak about it from a place of experience. It's not theoretical, I really mean it. And that's going to change the way you preach. That's going to change the way you talk to people."