A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of California
on Caring for those who Suffer from Mental Illness
Addressed to All Catholics and People of Goodwill
As pastors and bishops, we are deeply concerned with the heartbreaking prevalence of mental illness in our society and are taking action to address this tragic form of misery and sorrow. Though not as apparent and familiar as general medical problems, mental illness is equally important and is uniquely challenging and burdensome. It strikes deep within the human soul, impacting and influencing a person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors; thereby affecting all aspects of a person’s life—work and rest, family life and relationships, prayer and one’s relationship with God.
We need not look far to encounter our brothers and sisters who struggle with mental illness. Even those who do not have serious mental health problems can, to some extent, understand the experience of those who do: for not one of us is entirely free from periods of anxiety, emotional distress, troubling or intrusive thoughts, or strong temptations. Every human being is psychologically wounded by the effects of original sin and beset by human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We recognize that the experience of serious or chronic mental illness is unique and should not be trivialized; yet, when we address, this issue we need to overcome an attitude of “us” and “them,” which separates us one from another. Anyone may struggle with mental health problems; some require clinical attention or special forms of assistance. Even those who attend to the needs of others, including the pastors of the Church, are “wounded healers”: each of us is imperfect before God and in need of Christ’s redemptive grace.