Caring for our mental health

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

IN the gospel, many instances are recorded where some leading Jews would make many rash judgments on Christ and his disciples. One such instance was when Christ cured a man with a withered hand. (cfr. Lk 6,6-11)

These leading Jews were quick to observe if Christ would heal that man on a Sabbath, which to them was a no-no, according to their rigid and self-righteous laws. And when finally Christ cured the man, they were enraged and discussed among themselves about what to do with Christ.

This, to me, is an example of what we can consider, at the very least, as a mental health issue. The whole affair certainly is more serious than that, involving as it does matters of faith and spiritual life, but the mental health aspect, I would say, plays a crucial role in it.

We have to give due concern to this aspect of our life because nowadays we can observe increasing cases of mental health issues. Many people are falling into anxiety, depression, burn-out, addiction, psychosis, delirium, bipolar disorder, etc. The increasing pressures and complexities in today’s life can easily give rise to these disorders.

The ideal mental health, I imagine, is when one is at peace with everyone, first with God, and then with everybody and everything else. Despite the unavoidable differences, conflicts, difficulties and challenges in life, one manages to be at peace and confident in tackling whatever situation one may be in, certain of where he is going. He has a clear vision of the real purpose of life, and does everything to be on track.

Obviously, this ideal mental health can only be achieved when one is with God who, in Christ, offers us the “way, the truth and the life” proper to us. Thus, to develop a good mental health, we really should go to Christ who makes himself available to us all the time through the many instrumentalities he himself has provided us.

The significance of our mental health lies in the fact that it is there where we can have greater control of our own selves, enabling us to direct our thoughts, desires, feelings, etc. to their proper objective.

If we make the effort to develop our mental health in Christ, we can manage to understand many things and to cope with any situation we may find ourselves in. We can avoid making rash judgments, negative thoughts, and having a critical spirit, always looking for faults in others. More than these, we would always feel driven to do good, whatever may be the circumstances.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We have to realize that to develop a good mental health, we need to do certain things—praying, developing the virtues like humility, prudence, order, fortitude, etc. In a sense, there is a certain regimen to follow also, one that is fitted to one’s concrete conditions.

This is where the value of piety comes in, playing a crucial role in keeping us healthy mentally, emotionally, psychologically and even physically. Piety is our relationship with God. It is nourished by God’s gifts of faith, hope and charity to which we have to correspond knowingly, freely and lovingly.

We have to realize more deeply our need to have a genuine life of piety to be truly healthy, first in the spirit and then in the body. We have to spread this Good News widely. It hardly involves money or some material things. What only is needed is an act of faith, which is something spiritual, a matter of our will and intelligence.