Many of the Easter readings in Acts have to do with the topic of Christian communities and evangelizing. These are my thoughts on how present day parish communities might reach out and be of help to those with depression (and other conditions).
- Pray at home, pray at mass, pray with the affected person or family, and/or encourage your parish to list a general prayer for those with mental illness in the prayers of the faithful at mass.
- Learn about depression and mental illness so you are less likely to say things like, “cheer up,” “get a life,” or “hey dude, you need to learn how to relax!”
- Ask if you can be of assistance if you know someone that has experienced the hospitalization or death of a loved one because of mental illness.
- Kind gestures of community affection are always nice. For example, if you see a person sitting alone and looking sad just before mass starts go sit with him or her and smile when you are doing so. “May I sit here?” is always a nice phrase. At the very least, smile and say hello when you see other people at church.
- Invite the affected person or family member to a parish Bible study, novena, or to help with the parish picnic or decorate the youth center for Halloween. If they decline, that’s OK. They know you asked.
- Refrain from all forms of gossip. Someone suffering from a mental condition is very acutely tuned in and will know. Besides God will know, and you know how wrong and destructive gossip is. If you do nothing else, refrain from that!
We are the body of Christ. It is our mandate to reach out and be supportive. It’s a form of evangelizing everyone understands.
Here is a terrific resource for parishes: The National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities. It includes topics of mental illness. www.ncpd.org
Picture is mine, 2011, our parish sanctuary.