The Church and mental health: how should it respond?

Jim McManus

With the rise of concepts such as mental wellbeing, resilience and recovery, it is time to revise our common views of what mental health comprises. This article suggests there are significant implications for the Church’s response to new understandings of mental health and wellbeing. Jim McManus is Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire and Vice-Chair of the Healthcare Executive Group for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The nature of mental health
After a history of much misunderstanding and stigmatisation, there is an understandable move to de-stigmatise people who experience mental ill-health. But this itself has resulted in some confusion. Mental health is too often conceptualised as either entirely organic (e.g. genetic, biological or brain chemistry factors) or entirely social (the result of stressors such as work stress, poverty or discrimination). This is an oversimplification. Social determinants and stressors and organic causes can work together in different ways to bring about or sustain mental health
challenges.

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