March 9, 2018
participating in local faith-oriented "small group" events. Doing so gives me the
opportunity to meet other Catholics—many of them young adults—from a variety of
backgrounds, professions, and stages of their spiritual journeys. Group members
sometimes share challenges in their faith or other areas of their personal lives.
Some have shared struggles with their mental health, and the other group
members always respond with great compassion. Their kindness is an inspiring
reminder to me of how the most ordinary of us can help build up a culture of
life in the smallest ways, through awareness of—and sensitivity to—those who
struggle with mental health issues, whatever the setting or circumstances we
learn of these conditions.
I find it
striking that such openness and courage to discuss mental health seems to be
growing among the younger generations, even in an open, faith-sharing group of
relative strangers. It has also helped me see that more people than we may
realize have struggles that are often invisible. Based on what I have observed,
when someone shares difficulties with their mental health, it can bring
everyone in the group to a deeper level of understanding and a heightened
respect and sensitivity for the person sharing, rather than becoming a moment
of awkwardness or alienation. It can form a stronger sense of community and
increase the spirit of mutual respect and support already present in the conversations.
of us is precious in the eyes of God. Each one of us, as messengers of God's
love, has the capacity to create positive encounters that can help reaffirm
another's dignity and lighten his or her burden, especially in how we speak and
act. There is no substitute for professional help, but there are simple, small
things we can do proactively to be as supportive as possible for those who
share their mental health concerns with us.
example, we could educate ourselves on how best to be a supportive, affirming
presence to others in general. We could familiarize ourselves with various
mental health conditions and learn more specifically how to support people
experiencing those conditions. We could learn what local referral resources are
available or have a suicide hotline number on hand. Such steps can help us know
how to appropriately respond in all our relationships, whether someone who
confides in us is a family member, friend, co-worker, or an acquaintance in our
local faith community.
we live out our call to respect the sacredness and dignity of every human life,
let us keep in our awareness and prayer all who struggle with mental health concerns.
If we should somehow learn of someone's struggles in this area, let us, as
messengers of God's love, always respond with compassion and sensitivity. Creating
a culture of respect and attentiveness is incredibly life-affirming. In some
cases, we may even be helping to save a life.
Baker is Programs and Projects Coordinator for the Secretariat of Pro-Life
Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the
bishops' pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.