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10 Things You Should NEVER Say To a Catholic With Mental Illness

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  • Howard

    OK, I’ll bite.

    First of all, what is called “mental illness” today is different from what was called “mental illness” forty years ago, and in another forty years you can bet it will be different again. Can’t stop eating? You’re not suffering from a temptation to gluttony; today we say you’ve got a food addiction. There are sex addictions and porn addictions, too, for those who don’t want to go the spiritual advisor route. And demonic possession? Yeah, right; that’s for people who actually believe all that stuff in the Bible and the Catechism. Of course we know now that it doesn’t exist. I think Oprah proved that sometime in the nineties.

    Now it turns out that there *are* in fact real mental illnesses, but they usually require a professional to accurately diagnose them. Unfortunately, the professionals today are busy telling us that an 8-year-old boy who would rather be playing outside than sitting in a classroom has a mental illness, but Bruce Jenner, who wants to be thought of as a woman, does not.

    So in conclusion, the best advice is to replace Brooke Gregory’s list with the less exciting recommendation to think before you speak and be considerate.

    • Peter

      So Howard, what do you do if your Psychiatrist is a devout Catholic? And just because there may be some problems with Psychiatry, does not mean that these illnesses do not exist.

    • MillerJM

      They are not actually in fact real mental illnesses – they are addictions and habitual behaviors. Addictions and habitual behaviors are not the same as mental illness. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders includes a whole range of things for the purposes of coding and billing. Their presence in the manual does not imply they are mental disorders. Case in point – parent child relational problem. And no, the professionals are not busy telling you that an 8 year old sitting in a classroom rather than playing outside has a mental disorder – I don’t know anything in the DSM that would suggest this and in my 20 years as a psychologist, I’ve never heard any mental health professional suggest such a thing. Maybe some armchair psychologist, but not an actual professional. And yes, Bruce Jenner, does have a disorder in the DSM – it is called Gender Dysphoria. So please, just stop. I think one of the spirits behind the point of the article is don’t act like a know-it-all when someone has a mental illness. It doesn’t help them. Your comments are not only unhelpful and unempathic, they are just wrong. Even the notion that think before you speak and be considerate is of little help, because it can still be a problem if you are ignorant about mental illness.

      • Brooke Gregory

        Right. Being considerate and speaking carefully is helpful, but ultimately gets the discussion about mental illness nowhere and isn’t as productive at stopping the spread of stigma as having real talk about mental illness and seeking to understand mentally ill perspectives.

  • Below the bio on this article: “You might also like: suffering” *Facepalm*

    I have a ton of thoughts on this, but what comments are posted already have me antsy about sharing them…

    • Brooke Gregory

      I think the widget just links to articles with similar keywords, I’m getting a suggestion for an article about Fr. Kapaun and how he dealt with suffering.

      Please do feel free to share your thoughts, as long as they are respectful.

  • Maria

    I disagree with #1 and #10. Having suffered from periods of profound clinical depression I can say that the witness of the saints is precisely what got me through. When therapy does nothing for you and none of the medications have any effect at all, you’d be amazed how comforting and strengthening it is to know that if St. Therese could come through her depression safely and faithfully, that you can to. I speak from experience on this one. Concerning #10: I cannot think of a more unhelpful suggestion than to offer someone who is mentally ill a bottle of wine. Have you read none of the statistics about the relationship between alcohol consumption and deepening depression?! That bottle of wine, drunk alone, could be the very thing that pushes a borderline person over the edge!

    • Brooke Gregory

      I urge you to go back and read #1 more carefully. I expound that, while the witness of the saints can be very comforting, saying that exact quote to mentally ill people basically trivializes their struggles and minimizes how serious their situation can be. It can also be used to try to convince mentally people who need medication that they should just be able to power through without it like the saints did.

      In regards to number ten, I’m aware of the statistics; that was mostly meant as a joke and a reference to my own experiences and preferences.

  • Adam Hovey

    I have some issues with depression and I remember my ex-girlfriend who is a quote “former Catholic” telling me that the reason that I was depressed was basically because I don’t love God enough. To say I was angry is an understatement

  • Martina

    I’m curious to know what the author’s experience is with mental illness since the article does not make a personal connection and the bio does not include any connecting details. Thanks.

    • Brooke Gregory

      I’ve experienced anxiety and depression symptoms since adolescence, have been formally diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, and I’m considering seeking a PTSD diagnosis as I believe this is the root of my anxiety symptoms that have worsened since I extricated myself from a severely psychologically abusive relationship when I was in college. I tried to make the article more personal with personal and inclusive pronouns in a few entries, but didn’t want to focus so much on my own experiences because I didn’t want to make it “about me.” Mental illness encompasses a huuuuge variety of conditions and experiences, so I didn’t want to just limit the scope of the article to my own experiences of anxiety-related mental illness.

  • Sams_1

    This is right and true. I have worked with these who are heroes to me for all they have to take.. I always just tlak to them like I talk to everyone else and they do the same. geez …you won’t catch it..whatever..and they can tell jokes too…don’t be so afraid to laugh..they are funny and cute too. and all things everyone else is aye carumbas

  • Kathy Quade

    I’ve suffered from mental illness since childhood. I’m now 69 years old and still suffering. The comment that hurts me the most is “you don’t have enough faith in God ….”

  • Natasha Gaiski

    i really really needed to read this today. i still suffer everyday from anxiety and apparently have developed depression.
    thank you.

  • Sue Korlan

    I wonder how many people who have mental illness have bothered to receive the anointing of the sick. After all, it is an illness.

    • Brooke Gregory

      I definitely have. Many may not because of the stigma that mental illness isn’t as “real” as physical illness, which is unfortunate. It helps!

  • Mark Zerafa

    Religion expects you to believe in a man in the sky who is angered by gay people, who created the entire universe in 7 days, who impregnated a Jewish teen girl 2k years ago so that he may be born …… Tell me: how is religion itself not a mental illness?

    • Tell me: how do you plan to cure it? Can it be cured? How do you plan to treat it? Evidently not well. We mad people are of the sort where you shouldn’t make us sound bad and you sometimes have to forego reason to do that because we want (you) to think that everyone sees life the same way.

      So tell me: are children mad? We do call ourselves “children of God” and that includes the “gay people” simply because, whether they are “born (or bred) this way” – in fact it’s both – each of them are “not born with company”, to put it nicely.

      So for all you know (about what “religion expects you to believe”), you are either sub-consciously hopeful – very sub-consciously – or you’re worse than us mad people because knowledge is supposed to be better than belief.

      Or you tell me.

      • Mark Zerafa

        So much talk, yet so very little substance. You need to explain to us how your belief in the benevolent Man in the Sky is sound and rational. Please explain. You sound rather confident that he is there, so it should be easy.

        • You’re right, there was “so very little substance”… Because, Legion, if I could “explain to you all” (my) Faith, I may very well not exist. For I would have to be the Lord God, who alone can (and doth) under-stand himself (and perfectly at that), being Being – or “substance” – and (so) Perfection itself. As if there’s any other way of being perfect!

          In fact I am not perfect but, even so, I do know a deflection when I see one – and it’s standalone so a sign of illogic. (You seriously answered a question with a question!?) And yet I can’t help but think – so you see? I am mad! – that your non-answer is a sign of your sub-conscious hope. So let me give a religious answer to the “us” you claim to be:

          Get behind me, satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s. For what has a man to offer in exchange for his life? Mark, Mark! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I will pray for you, Mark, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in turn must strengthen your brothers.

          (But for now, according to circumstance, you may have the last say with any reply to this.)

          • Mark Zerafa

            What on earth are you talking about?

  • sequax

    That there is the top ten things said to Catholics with mental illness. On one hand, looking at the lives of the saints CAN help. But some of those are really damaging. Especially the “obviously, you wouldn’t have that problem if you had more faith”. I’ve heard that during healing masses and the like. There are some who tell those struggling with cancer that they only have cancer because they have some spiritual problem. Talk about tempting one to wrath…

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