The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations appealed Wednesday to the Human Rights Council to couple psychological treatment with spiritual care.
In response to a recent report on mental health issued by the council’s special rapporteur, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovich agreed that the report “rightly promotes the adoption of an integrated bio-medical, psycho-social, and community-based delivery of mental health care.”
“My Delegation also would like to point out the importance of spiritual care in helping persons living with, or affected by, mental health problems,” he added in his June 14 statement.
Archbishop Jurkovich quoted the words of St. John Paul II: “Whoever suffers from mental illness ‘always’ bears God’s image and likeness in themselves, as does every human being. In addition, they ‘always’ have the inalienable right not only to be considered as an image of God and therefore as a person, but also to be treated as such.”
The archbishop expressed hope that the report’s “caution against reductionist biomedical paradigms” would “awaken the consciences” of human rights advocates, policy makers, mental health practitioners, family members, and communities “to the inalienable and God-given dignity of each person.”
He said the issues and people suffering from mental illness have been ignored for too long. The topic of mental illness, he said, tends to draw fear, discrimination, and even rejection from society, which in the past led to ‘“warehousing’ of such persons in large, isolated, and closed institutions.”
The archbishop stated there must be an established defense against the dangers which may be new forms of isolation, like cultivating an over-dependency on psychiatric drugs, social exclusion, depriving the patients of informed consent, and inhibiting their self-responsibility. He also decried “the increasing encouragement and facilitation of assisted suicide” among those with mental health challenges.
Spiritual care should also aid the people seeking out mental care, he said, noting it is an integral part of the human person. However, he drew a line between spiritual care and “faith healing” which ignores or even rejects medical treatment.
“Spiritual care should not be confused with, or mistaken by, so-called ‘faith healing’ to the exclusion of medical, psychological, and social assistance,” he emphasized.