Amid these sobering statistics, and at the beginning of national Mental Health Awareness Month, the Catholic bishops of California have issued ‘Hope and Healing’, a pastoral letter on caring for those who suffer from mental illness, calling Catholics to accompany them and to offer them Christian hope. The bishops called the spike in mental illness, suicide, and drug overdoses a “heartbreaking” crisis, and urged Catholics to help end the social stigma for those seeking support and help in these areas of their lives.

As reported by CNA, the Catholic Bishops remarked that “Christ’s public life was a ministry of hope and healing. As Catholics, in imitation of our Lord, we are called to provide hope and healing to others. We profess that every human life is sacred, that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, a person’s dignity and worth cannot be diminished by any condition, including mental illness. Persons with mental illness often suffer in silence, hidden and unrecognized by others.” Further, they added, “We clearly proclaim that there is no shame in receiving a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder. We affirm the need for education in our communities to remove the unjust prejudice and stigma often associated with mental illness.’

They also encouraged a “both-and” approach to the healing of mental illnesses that accounted for the whole human person – spiritually, physically, and psychologically. The bishop’s letter, in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, was posted to the website of the California Catholic Conference, along with a list of mental health resources and suicide hotlines available in California.