By the Council on NCPD Mental Illness
In 2017 the Secretariat of Catholic Education of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in conjunction with the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, conducted a historic national study of collegiate Catholic campus ministry as part of a plan to renew and rejuvenate the vision for Catholic Campus Ministry. 816 college campuses in all 50 states were included in the study. While the findings of the study showed a number of innovative programs and highlighted many joys in the lives of college-age students, the study also reported specific areas where students struggle. Some of these areas include: binge drinking, eating disorders, computer gaming, pornography, and mental illness. Indeed, both pornography and mental illness are areas were students struggled the most.
In our fast-paced world, young adults may respond to the noise of the contemporary culture in an unhealthy way. It has been said that a young woman or man suffering from anorexia or bulimia is like a canary in a coal mine. But we must keep these questions in perspective as we all have our own unhealthy behaviors. The best response is for a person to seek his or her own holy path so that another may see the light and joy of Christ. Indeed, St. Ignatius of Loyola himself struggled with a major depressive episode in Manresa. Rather than spend too much time looking at the fault of another, we must find a way to seek our own healing as Jesus alone heals. We have to trust that God is at work in another and be attune to those in need.
There is nothing more beautiful for a young adult than to come out of a shell and see the love that he or she might give to people who are poor, have a disability, are homeless, struggle with mentally illness, and so on. On the one hand, a young adult may suffer from a malady of loneliness that finds an unhealthy expression. On the other hand, the person may learn to establish great habits of loving one another in community and serving Christ in others.
The Council on Mental Illness, sponsored by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), is a resource for individuals and institutions within the Catholic Church. The Council provides a website which has a number of resources, including a “Welcome and Valued” handbook and video. The Council also participated in an ecumenical document published with the American Psychiatric Association that acknowledges the importance of faith in the response to mental illness and most recently worked with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in developing an 8-page document titled, “A Pastoral Response to Mental Illness.” A Spanish version is forthcoming.
We encourage and invite all those involved on Jesuit college campuses to learn more about mental illness, how to provide support to students, and journey along with them in their path to recovery. Indeed, all people have the ability and right to live a fulfilling and productive life, to be a member of a community despite the continuing challenges of living with a mental illness.
Following Jesus who embraced all, the Council on Mental Illness reaches out to accompany our brothers and sisters with mental illness and their families while assisting the Catholic community by providing resources and education for spiritual and pastoral support.