Nearly 60 parishes, 16 hospitals, and more than 100 ministry leaders and health care professionals from around the Archdiocese of Los Angeles discussed mental health issues and offered resources during the daylong “Spiritual and Pastoral Care: Promoting Mental Wellness in our World Today” workshop held at Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills on May 18.
Community partners included the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the LA County Department of Mental Health, Maryvale, and Divine Mercy Clinic.
With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the event was organized by the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace to help reduce the stigma of getting help, emphasize the importance of Mental Health Ministries, and affirm the need to create a “culture of care and accompaniment” when it comes to mental health.
“It’s a topic that the Church realizes it cannot ignore and must look for ways to better accompany the faithful experiencing mental illness,” said Michael Donaldson, head of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, last year. “The stats tell us that one out of four or five adults experience some sort of mental health issue — these include our people in the pews. For the Church to partner in mental health and to be present with this topic is so vital. It’s right in line with what we are called to do as missionary disciples.”
The workshop included a special presentation from Deacon Ed Shoener, president of the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, who has spoken at several events in the LA Archdiocese to recommend how faith can bring healing to those who suffer from mental illness or mental health problems.
Shoener founded the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers in 2019, three years after his daughter, Katie, committed suicide at age 29 due to her bipolar disorder.
Part of Shoener’s mission is helping Catholics understand the distinction between ministry and therapy. Ministers, he explained, can be trained to know when someone they are accompanying needs to be referred to a professional and where to send them. They can be trained in what’s called “mental health first aid” and in accompanying those caring for someone with a mental illness.
There are currently 59 specially trained “Mental Health Ministers” in 39 parishes around the archdiocese.
To get mental health help and resources, visit lifejusticeandpeace.lacatholics.org/mental-health or call 213-637-7228 to receive a Catholic therapist referral.