New York Bishops Reach Out to Those Suffering Mental Illness

Pastoral Letter, ‘For I Am Lonely and Afflicted,’ Issued With Recommendations

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The bishops of New York State have published a pastoral letter regarding people who suffer mental illness.

The letter, titled, ‘For I am Lonely and Afflicted’: Toward a Just Response to the Needs of Mentally Ill Persons,” recalls the example of Jesus, saying, “we must reject the twin temptations of stereotype and fear, which can cause us to see mentally ill people as something other than children of God, made in His image and likeness, deserving of our love and respect.”

Regarding the fears that people might have concerning mentally ill people the letter noted that fewer than 5% of violent acts are committed by people with mental illness. The bishops also commented that, “persons with mental illness are more often victims than perpetrators of violent acts, and they also are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse.”

Mental illness also places a heavy burden on family members, the letter explained. “The suffering endured by mentally ill persons is a most difficult cross to bear, as is the sense of powerlessness felt by their families and loved ones.»

“Our Judeo-Christian tradition calls us to be witnesses of God’s love and mercy and to be instruments of hope for these individuals,” the bishops urged.

“Let us be clear, it is our duty and the duty of every pastor, every chaplain, every religious education director and Catholic school principal, and all others in positions of Church leadership at every level to welcome with openness and affection those men, women and children who are afflicted with any form of mental illness and to integrate them into the life of the Church to the fullest extent possible,” they wrote.

The letter was issued in conjunction with a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, in consultation with the Behavioral Health Committee of the State Council of Catholic Charities Directors, that put forward a number of policy recommendations.

The statement dealt with a number of issues, ranging from gun control to community-based treatment.

“We urge an expansion of an integrated health home community network approach combining mental health, addiction and medical treatment,” the statement said.

Letter by bishops of New York state –

Recommendations on the care of persons with mental illness –

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