Saturday, January 28, 2023

“Patients with mental health problems are really poor because they suffer from disease and stigma”

The forecasts are bleak. One in four people will have a mental health problem in their lifetime. The effects of an uncertain society – especially as a result of the pandemic – have meant that disorders have increased. Depression, anxiety or personality disorder is the most commonly occurring pathology, but not the only one. In the most severe cases, there is a tendency to harm oneself or commit suicide.

The latter have increased alarmingly in recent years: In 2020, a total of 4,000 people took their lives, breaking all records since records began in 1906. Mental illness was behind almost all the cases. In recent years, mental health prevention has become increasingly visible, but there is still great stigma and fear of seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Like other diseases, prevention is essential. According to the Spanish Society of Psychiatry and Mental Health, early care from childhood and adolescence can reduce the incidence of mental disorders by a third. World Health Organization (WHO) warns that mental illness will be the leading cause of disability by 2030, while the administration tries to react timidly. But much remains to be done.

Spain has public, private and organized psychiatric centers that aim to treat people with mental health disorders. Depending on the degree of severity, treatments vary. Many people are unaware that the spiritual support provided by priests to these patients is essential to a comprehensive recovery process. At least for many of them, regardless of their beliefs.

One of these priests is Gerardo Dueñas, who, since April 2011, has been with the people in a psychiatric hospital in Madrid – he is not authorized to provide us with the name of the center -. The Head of the Mental Health Commission of the Department of Pastoral Health of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference has shared his rich experience with these patients in the Ecclesia.

Spiritual accompaniment from priests in psychiatric centers is part of the recovery process for many people. Even more so in recent years, in which there appears to be a greater awareness of mental health disorders and the importance of prevention, especially after the pandemic…

One of the positive aspects of the pandemic is that it has made us realize the importance of mental health issues in our society. The incidence has increased. The latest figures show that there has been a 10% increase in suicide cases in Spain as a result of the pandemic. We all know close people who have faced various mental health problems, because the field of mental health is vast. Sometimes we think of over-serious disorders with a tremendous stigma, but who doesn’t know about a person with depression, a young person with an eating disorder, or a substance abuse problem, video games. .. This is something everyday in our society and now the pandemic has exposed it more.

Eleven years on, it’s gaining ground in awareness, or at least it’s starting to become part of the media agenda. In your case, do you remember the first time you were with a patient?

I don’t know whether we are worse or better in terms of awareness and consistency than we were eleven years ago. On a personal level, I have created an important process. I remember when a few weeks ago they told me that the bishop was sending me to be the chaplain of the public psychiatric hospital in Madrid, everything inside me shook. Because I studied, I had knowledge of psychology, I had a master’s degree in psychological and spiritual accompaniment, but it is one thing to study theory and another thing to go to a psychiatric hospital. I said ‘Oh my God, let’s see what I’m going to do’.

But with God’s help, I never declined anything that was offered to me at church, I assumed I was meant to be there and over the years I fell in love with the mental health ministry. It is an exciting place where we meet the poor of Madrid. There is no major problem of hunger or vital needs in Madrid, but the patients who suffer from mental health problems and are admitted to psychiatric centers are really poor.

I invite you to think what do I do if my neighbor is diagnosed with cancer, what emotions invade me? Well of course pass, how can I help you, but if I find out that another neighbor has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, my feeling is that try not to take the stairs or share the lift. Do it. They are two serious diseases, possibly on a physical level and with cancer, but it is one disease. In the metro, at home, at work, in the bus, patients have to face this stigma constantly and it hurts. We have to support This is our job. The role of mental health ministry is to be where no one is wanted and to remember that God wanted to be with those who were suffering. To be a part of the hospital family, this is what we want to announce by our presence.

What does it bring to compatible patients? What do they look for?

Everyone needs to be supported on a spiritual level. At the psycho-physical level, his whole personality changes and all dimensions of the individual must come together, and within this there is a spiritual dimension that is not only of believers, but a human dimension. We all need to feel reconciled to expressing our fears, and this is not only in the psychological realm, but also in the spiritual, the beliefs on which we base our lives.

I don’t know that my presence, I do what I can, but the presence of spiritual priests who work in the ministry of mental health are called upon to accompany that spiritual dimension, to give the sense that I Why am I suffering this, how can I live it. My experience over the years is that obviously people with mental health problems have spiritual problems just like everyone else and need to be supported in the same way. Even in the typical cases and in most film cases, in which the origin of suffering is pathological due to delusion or whatever, even in this case, even if the roots of suffering are pathological, the suffering is real and We can be with him forever.

Christian Spirituality in the Case of Believing Patients: How Does God Respond to Our Feelings? It is the cross of Jesus, who has come to share our cross, and sharing our cross as any form of illness, including mental health, sharing the cross gives it meaning, because it is a place of resurrection, complete Life is the place that God has promised us and Jesus has already expected of us.

How is it compatible, what tools can be used for the approach?

I don’t have any model. Along with the daily celebration and administration of the sacraments, there is a part of sacred meditation. Also with a lot of creativity, because mental health patients have their own specialty and you have to do it with patience. And then being there. The general population thinks of a hospital where everyone is in their own room, but in psychiatric hospitals it doesn’t work that way, in fact they try to make sure that patients are in the room for a minimum amount of time during the day. Spend in so that they do not do this. Locked himself in and is in bed. They are roaming around the units, garden etc. It’s about putting yourself within limits, asking questions.

Some important, for example, pastoral care by name, is knowing the patients name. It is easier in case of long term or older patients as they have been with us for many years. In treble they differ. The importance of knowing the name is to personalize, it is to ask what is wrong with you. And the second very simple thing is to look into the eyes. Usually because of this fear or stigma patients feel rejected and don’t look them in the eye. Looking in the eyes is telling the other person that I care about you, I care about what you’re going through, what you’re thinking.

They are simple techniques but they work to turn the other person into a conversationalist. It’s telling him, I care about you. And God cares for you. And we do this not because of the faith that others have because we support not only those who have faith, but also those who want to. I stand by my beliefs.

What are Conversion Stories?

There are priceless stories, I don’t remember the conversion to a show plan, but I do remember many people, especially acute patients or those going through detoxification, addiction or personality disorders, who have revived their faith, who had fallen asleep, hidden, that they also thought they were lost, and that it was time to rediscover God in their lives. It is one of the most beautiful things in our life. Crisis is always an opportunity, and psychiatric hospitalization is a great crisis. This is something to remember because this experience is powerful. It’s time to reconsider how I live, what my priorities are, what is really important to me. Our presence in these matters is to be God’s instrument. It is God who works and we witness that change and bring God back into our lives. People who haven’t set foot in a church for years, start attending the festivities every day or Sunday, read the Gospel, place themselves before God with authenticity and ask who I really am . I like to tell patients many times when we talk and they ask you for help that you are in a big crisis, but you have many resources like psychiatrist, psychologist, treatment, personal or family resources… But the spiritual resource also, because God is acting, takes hold of you. We all work for the betterment of the patient. I do believe that when a person is spiritually together in a healthy way, it contributes to their well-being, and in the case of mental health patients as well.

In a world full of uncertainties… are we heading towards a society where mental health disorders will increase?

I do not know what to tell you. These are not easy times, but when has it been. I don’t know how the situation will be. Society is becoming increasingly fragile, a fluid youth that lacks faith and other associated values. But you have to be optimistic. We have to take care of ourselves, do our best knowing that it is God who controls history, and we do what we can. Each of us who doesn’t, no one will, but we must be optimistic because we are believers and the last word is the resurrection. This is not to spiritualize the problems, but to realize that each moment has its own difficulties, but that the Spirit has always been speaking to us throughout history. You have to look at it, I don’t know with optimism, but with hope.

Nation World News Desk
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