Christian blueprint for mentally-ill care
WHILE Fr Nixon's letter (November 7) contains much the church needs to think about, there are other aspects to be considered in relation to Christians suffering from depression and mental illness.
Experience shows that halfway houses cannot do anything positive and meaningful to help afflicted Christians to achieve what they need to achieve unless they are staffed by people trained in Christian pastoral care and counselling and to work in the interdisciplinary field of integrating psychology and psychotherapy with the Christian faith.
This is probably also the reason why the clergy are either insensitive to the deepest needs of the depressed and mentally ill or have faifed to offer the very best kind of understanding, help and support to them and their families.
Community care is, of course, the best kind of care. But the afflicted person should not be taken from the community or the family home. The local Christian community should also be willing to help the mentally ill person and support, in every way possible, the individual's family or parents.
Because of our failure to concern ourselves with issues that perplex, frighten, worry and cripple the ordinary people, we now have a large and growing army of people suffering from depression and mental illness. Since this involves a pastoral responsibility no priest can evade, he should have a good foundation course in pastoral theology — which stems from theological resources and psychodynamic understandings.
While this provides a theological and psychological basis for clinical pastoral care, it should also give him an insight into what our rooted individualism has made it difficult to understand: the infinite creative and healing power of a religion which is social to its very core.
The correlation of psychology and theology has stirred, encouraged and restored many in the practice of pastoral care and bishops should provide a course of seminars for clergy and others concerned to relate their theological understanding to psychiatry and psychotherapy.
There are resources from within Christianity which will radically alter the situation and life of afflicted persons, and even though they cannot of themselves effect a responsible change in themselves. the care and concern of the mentally ill is never to be the responsibility of one person acting in isolation. It is the function of the whole body of the church in every aspect of its corporate life.
While the Christian community must, therefore, open its eyes and heart to the real needs of the mentally ill, the church should also have trained pastoral practitioners and specialists in counselling
available and willing to deal with such matters at all hours of the day — and in each diocese. The love of Christ leaves us no option! Dr B Rhys-Williams London SE3