To recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability held a teleconference prayer service offering those with mental illness, and their friends and family, communal and spiritual support. “Our hope is simply to provide an opportunity for Catholics to pray together in a place of understanding, trust, and acceptance,” an organizer for the event, Connie Rakitan, told CNA on Wednesday.

The prayer service took place on Oct. 3, which marked the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding. The service began with the song “Change my Heart, oh God,” after which the group was invited to say together the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” The group reflected on those aspects of mental illness they are and are not able to change, and ample time was given for participants to offer reflections aloud.

The service continued with a reading from Scripture, Isaiah 43. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned … Since you are precious and honored in my sight,” Judy Barr, another event organizer, read aloud. Rakitan concluded with prayers for those with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

The teleconference was organized by the NCPD’s Council on Mental Illness, of which Rakitan is a founding member. The NCPD was created in 1982, four years after the U.S. bishops released a statement affirming the dignity of people with disabilities.

The Council on Mental Illness was created in 2006. The council offers trainings, webinars, and seminars aimed at accompanying those with mental illnesses. It also hopes to change public understanding of mental illnesses, and guide the development of related public and Church policy.

“We hope that the public comes to a more compassionate, and less stigmatized, acceptance of all who are affected by mental illness — the individual, the family, friends, service providers, caregivers,” Rakitan said. She also expressed hope “that policy makers in the Church and in the public sector are sensitive to their responsibility for justice and inclusion.”

Rakitan explained to CNA that there are four elements of treatment for mental illnesses: biological, social, psychological, and spiritual. “Spirituality, as it is expressed in an open and inclusive church, is a place where people can explore and celebrate their inner resources, and find their relationship with God and God’s people,” she said. The spiritual component contributes to a full and happy life, she said, but added that spirituality is also a source of a refuge for many of the people who struggling. “For many, their spirituality is something that ‘gets them through the night’ and their faith is what provides meaning and hope.”