Mental Health a Top Priority: Australian Bishops

Oct 29, 2020 | 0 comments

Fr. Dan Horan

“To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today” – This  August 2020 document from the Australian Bishops Conference has been praised for its honesty by Professor of Spirituality Daniel Horan OFM in the National Catholic Reporter (USA)

Fr Horan, based in Chicago, USA, gives the Australian Bishops far more marks for this substantial document than he gives US bishops who, he says, tend to ignore the issue.

The Australian bishops quote many personal stories of mental illness – ranging from depression to anxiety and more severe forms of one of the world’s most serious afflictions – and strongly attack the stigma and silence that tend to cling to it.

“Jesus himself was labelled mad (Mark 3:21; John 10:19) and, like us, he suffered psychological distress (Luke 22:44; Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33; John 12:27).”

The Australian bishops also listed mental health as a top concern for young people, proven by their consultation of the rising generation for the Vatican Youth Synod of  2018.

The bishops of Australia also note the factors impacting on mental health for young people –  economic instability, the growing “gig economy,” homelessness, incarceration, climate change and the covid-19 pandemic.

All of these factors will be impacting Ireland’s young people also just now – but so far Ireland’s bishops have issued no conclusions on how the church is to respond to the widespread abandonment of religious practice by young people, following research reported by the bishops’ autumn conference of 2017 in preparation for the 2018 Youth Synod. In a context of growing uncertainty and unease over the issue of faith formation in Ireland’s Catholic schools,  Irish Catholics still do not know how the Irish church is to respond effectively.

The probability that large numbers of Irish young people are now facing acute challenges to their mental health – while their health service bends every sinew just to cope with the viral pandemic – is facing the Catholic church also with an unprecedented situation.

For Daniel Horan‘s complete article in NCR, click here.

(“To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today” – the Australian Bishops’ document on mental health – is also linked from there.)

Sean O’Conaill, 30th October 2020

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