By Donna Winant
For the past seven months there was no chaplain at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH). Before that, there was a short-term chaplain. And previous to that, for months and months, there was no chaplain. Family members pushed and pushed and gave suggestions for temporary solutions. This was ignored until advocate voices became louder and more strident. BSH is now looking for a part-time, interim chaplain, but a long-term, permanent chaplain is greatly needed.
The following information has been compiled from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Mental Health Benefits of Spirituality
Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves—it helps a person look within and understand themselves while also figuring out the greater answer of how they fit in to the rest of the world. In other words: It helps people understand their interpretation of the meaning of life.
Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influence mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are some of those benefits:
- Initiates social connections with other members
- Creates a sense of belonging to a group
- Offers trustworthy and safe social engagement
- Helps people to cope with difficult life situations (i.e. a ceremony for the loss of a loved one)
- Provides structure, regularity and predictability
- Allows for time to rest as well as holidays and other special times of the year
- Provides guidelines to live by (i.e. the importance of doing the right thing)
- Teaches compassion, forgiveness and gratitude
- Identifies life lessons, even from challenging situations
- Enhances a person’s sense of self and empowerment through the choice to decide what their practice looks like
- Focuses on an individual’s connection to what they believe in and their own personal growth
- Accepts any person, whether they are part of a religion or not
- Encourages meditation and self-reflection
- Leads to a meaningful life philosophy (i.e. feeling connected to others, nature or art)
- Prompts expression in any form such as art, poetry, myth or religious practice
Unity with Surroundings
- Renews a sense of belonging in the world
- Inspires appreciation and awareness of a person’s interaction with the physical environment
These mental health benefits are not limited to their respective categories—individuality isn’t exclusive to religion, just like spirituality can include a sense of community in some instances. The takeaway is that: If presented in a supportive way, religion and spirituality can help people improve their mental health and promote recovery.
To learn more about how faith and spirituality can benefit mental health, go to www.nami.org/faithnet.