Faith is a very personal thing and means something different to everyone. People who do not consider themselves ‘religious’ can still have a strong sense of faith that shapes their lives, their world view and the values by which they live. For someone suffering from mental health issues, faith can be a very important tool in helping them cope with their problems and provide a sense of grounding at a time of great distress.
How can Spirituality help with Mental Health Issues?
When dealing with a mental illness it can be easy to feel alone, afraid or confused. Spirituality can help in easing these feelings by providing:
- A connection to the world around you
- A belief that there is a higher power who will guide you
- Reassurance that things happen for a reason
- A fellow group of people who share similar beliefs
- Strength, wellbeing and calm (such as from meditation)
Being able to express and explore your faith is a universal human right and your healthcare team must respect this. By explaining your views and beliefs to them it may be possible for them to incorporate them into your treatment.
You may express your faith as part of an organised religious group who will be able to offer help and support during your treatment. This can be a great benefit if you feel more comfortable talking to people who share similar beliefs. If you are unsure where to find local religious groups in your area you should ask your healthcare professional as many in many cases these groups will have strong connections with local hospitals. Getting in touch with these groups can help in many ways such as:
- Talking through your fears or apprehensions
- Group prayer
- Practical support (such as helping with shopping and house work)
- Giving a sense of community
- Helping you explore your religious awareness
- Building and maintaining personal relationship skills
Stigma and Unhelpful Groups
While religious groups as a whole provide a lot of helpful support to sufferers of mental illness, sometimes their particular beliefs can breed prejudice and exclusion. Some groups believe that a person who is suffering from a mental illness is possessed by a sinister force, cursed by a higher being or that they should be avoided by other members of the group. It is important to remember that while religious groups can help with the spiritual side of things it is your local medical trust that should be in charge of your care. If you feel that others are excluding you or acting in an offensive manner then you should stop contact with them and discuss this with a medical professional.
Your Care as a Whole
Just as your combined treatment for mental health is divided into talking therapy and medication, your overall care should be divided into that provided by medical professionals, your friends, family and spiritual groups as well as the strength that you give yourself. Each one of these goes some way to helping you cope with your problems, but individually their effect is limited. By looking at your care as a combination of all these types of support your chances of recovery and maintaining a healthy mind are greatly increased.