September 15, 2023

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Prioritizing mental health and overcoming its stigmas

David Bethuram

Mental well-being, often subject to stigma and misunderstanding, has frequently been sidelined in discussions about holistic health. Yet, its impact is universal, affecting us directly or indirectly. The urgency to prioritize mental health care is undeniable and long past due.

The World Health Organization has reported that nearly one in four individuals worldwide will experience a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. Furthermore, suicide, often stemming from untreated mental health conditions, ranks as the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 29. Despite these concerning statistics, mental health tends to be overlooked, with insufficient resources allocated to address it adequately.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the critical necessity for robust mental health services. Isolation, job losses, grief and anxiety, among other stressors, have profoundly affected global mental

well-being. Mental health hotlines have noted an unprecedented surge in calls, and mental health professionals have seen a significant rise in their workload. This increased demand has strained the system, exposing significant gaps in our mental health infrastructure.

For many, seeking help for mental health issues presents a challenging journey fraught with obstacles. The stigma associated with mental illness often deters individuals from acknowledging their struggles and seeking assistance. Additionally, a shortage of mental health professionals and complexities related to insurance coverage further compound the difficulties. Consequently, many individuals suffer in silence, unable to access the care they urgently need.

A fundamental shift in our perspective on mental health is imperative. This transformation begins by dismantling the stigma surrounding mental illness. We must cultivate an awareness that mental health is a pivotal aspect of overall well-being and that mental illnesses are genuine, widespread and treatable. Fostering a culture where discussing mental health is as commonplace as discussing physical health is of utmost importance.

Furthermore, comprehensive and multifaceted mental health care is crucial. This encompasses not only therapy but also medication management when necessary. Organizations like Catholic Charities Indianapolis are innovators in such initiatives, providing an inspiring model of compassionate, all-encompassing mental health care.

Our services cater to diverse individuals of varying ages and backgrounds, offering an array of options including individual and group therapy, family and couples counseling. These efforts encompass collaboration among primary care providers, case managers or behavioral health consultants, and mental health specialists such as psychiatrists. Integrating behavioral health into primary care practice has been shown to enhance mental health, particularly for depression symptoms. This approach improves patients’ adherence to treatment, boosts patient satisfaction, and fosters engagement with health care providers.

Catholic Charities’ mental health services are inclusive, recognizing that mental health challenges transcend backgrounds and beliefs. We believe that everyone deserves empathetic and effective care. This commitment reflects an understanding that mental health struggles can impact anyone, highlighting their dedication to providing compassionate and impactful care.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of mental health is also pivotal. Factors like race, gender, socioeconomic status and exposure to trauma significantly shape mental health outcomes. Hence, an inclusive and equitable approach to mental health care is necessary, ensuring access to culturally sensitive care.

Mental health is not a peripheral concern; it lies at the core of our well-being. It is intertwined with our ability to lead fulfilling, productive lives. The vitality of our communities, loved ones, and ourselves hinges upon it. For those seeking assistance or seeking to learn more about comprehensive mental health care services, resources are readily accessible.

Remember, seeking help is not just acceptable but encouraged. Together, we can prioritize mental health and strive for a future where comprehensive care is available to all in need.

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at †

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