What is the difference between mental health and spiritual health?

difference between mental health and spiritual health
pic credit: Duluth News Tribune

In a bar, a priest, a therapist, and a Catholic enter. Which is the most important to a Catholic? You might be expecting a punch line, but this isn't one. The explanation is that a Catholic may require both a priest and a therapist at times. 

Today, we'll discuss what the Catholic Church has to say about the difference between spirituality and mental health, as well as what you may do if you're suffering. Have you ever been sad, nervous, or just plain grumpy? My latte is always made with the wrong milk by the barista. That isn't the topic of today's discussion. 

While it's natural to feel depressed now and then, some people experience sorrow, anxiety, and other symptoms that are far more severe and last much longer. Medical doctors refer to this as mental illness when it occurs. 

Mental illness encompasses a wide spectrum of conditions that influence how you feel, think, and act, as well as your capacity to cope with everyday life responsibilities. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all examples. 

The specific origin is unknown, however, it could be a mix of hereditary factors and triggers such as loss, trauma, or life events. Whatever the explanation, we now know that sophisticated brain operations have a physical component, due to contemporary research. It isn't always the soul. Right. Many saints, including John of the Cross, have described what is known as the "Dark Night of the Soul." It's a sensation of emptiness, desolation, and abandonment from God.

It's not the same as depression, despite the fact that the two can appear and feel the same. The Dark Night of the Soul is one stage of the mystical journey, and the Church believes that God utilizes it to refine and develop people spiritually on occasion. 

True Dark Nights of the Soul, on the other hand, are uncommon and usually only occur among spiritually accomplished people. Seek for a spiritual counselor who can examine your experience in the context of your spiritual life to see if you're experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul.

When someone is mentally ill, however, the Church believes there is a medical problem that should be addressed. While remedies differ, telling someone to "smile," "get over it," or "don't worry" isn't enough. You can't simply pray it away. 

Not that prayer can't assist, but shouldn't it have worked for Jesus during His mental and emotional pain if that was all it took? Isaiah, on the other hand, described the Messiah as a man who has suffered and knows pain. While this may sound dismal, it is actually good news for Catholics. Because Jesus suffered, He can empathize with us and assist us in our trials.

Catholics believe that God hears our cries and draws us closer to Himself as we recognize our reliance on Him and grow in faith. Catholics have hope because they realize that the problems of this world are not all there is, thanks to their continual contact with God. "The hardships of this present moment are as nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed for us," writes Saint Paul

Catholics believe that persons suffering from mental illness are precious brothers and sisters made in the image of God, each with their own special abilities, even today. Mentally ill people can be inventive, perceptive, loving, and industrious. 

Many of the world's greatest artists have struggled with mental illness, and their experiences have provided us with invaluable insight into the human condition.

Suffering can also aid in the development of compassion. A strong capacity for emotional suffering can be a gift. Because it has the potential to be converted into a profound capacity for love. This can be seen in the lives of saints such as Mother Teresa. 

According to her own writings, she suffered from severe depression for decades. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, she was capable of intense love. Saint John of God was also committed to a mental institution at one point. Following that event, he dedicated his life to serving the poor, sick, and humiliated.

So, if you think you're suffering from a mental disorder, what should you do?

To begin, consult a doctor to rule out any other physical issues or life events that could be causing your symptoms. It's also critical to look after your physical well-being. Eat well and get some exercise. Even a brief jog releases endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals. Surround yourself with friends and family who will support you. 

When you're depressed, Catholics believe the Devil, also known as the divider, wants you to be alone. However, being around people who care about you might be beneficial.

It's also important for Catholics to keep near to God through praying, attending Mass, and receiving the sacraments. The confessional isn't a replacement for counseling or medicine. Medicine and therapy, on the other hand, cannot remove sins. 

There are also numerous Catholic saints who might serve as spiritual pals and who understand what it's like to be a Catholic. Saints like Ignatius of Loyola, who struggled with depression and anxiety at times. He also gave us some suggestions on how to deal with depression. 

One, you should never break a promise or a commitment you've made. Two, meditate and do good actions while focusing on your relationship with God. Three, be patient and persevere, knowing that God will provide relief in due time.

These are all excellent ideas. However, the Church today would add a fourth item to the list. Get the help you need and stick with it. We didn't have access to psychotherapy and medication like we do now before the twentieth century. We should make use of modern medicine, which is a gift from God. 

Visiting a therapist or taking medicine does not imply that you are a weak person. Or that your faith in God isn't strong enough. It simply implies you have an ailment that requires treatment, the same as how someone with epilepsy or asthma requires medication to control their condition. 

Mental illness, like other physical ailments, can be lethal if left untreated. When a person's illness becomes too much for them to bear, they may commit suicide.

Suicide is a tragedy for the victim, but it also leaves a void in the lives of those who knew and loved them, as well as those who may come into contact with them in the future. It is, at its root, a violation of our duty to sustain self-love, neighbor-love, and God-love. Particularly since life is a gift that we do not own. 

The Church, on the other hand, recognizes that suicide victims are suffering from a serious illness and that, by God's mercy, they may be able to enter Heaven. According to the Catechism, "We should not be pessimistic about the eternal salvation of those who have committed suicide. They are being prayed for by the Church."

However, we must always do all possible to assist those who are contemplating suicide. Don't be discouraged if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from a mental disorder. It's important to remember that there is hope and that aid is available.  

You are significant to God and others, no matter what you are going through. God wants you to be happy and healthy in every aspect of your life.

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