May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 15 is the feast day of St. Dymphna, patroness of those suffering with stress, anxiety, and mental-health challenges. One in five adults and children under 18 experience a mental disorder, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). Sadly, even though it’s obvious that someone we know probably struggles to maintain their mental health, we are reluctant to talk about it!
Last year on Bishop Barron’s “Word on Fire” show, he discussed a book that shed light on the emerging generation of teens and young adults. The revelations within its pages chronicle how these young people are grappling with anxiety, adulting, and disaffiliation.
When I read this passage from the book it left me with such a sense of hopelessness:
The rise in suicide is more pronounced for girls. Although the rate increased for both sexes, three times as many 12- to 14-year-old girls killed themselves in 2015 than in 2007, compared to twice as many boys (likely because they use more lethal methods), girls are beginning to catch up. For an outcome such as suicide – the end of a young and precious life this is an extremely worrisome rise. It’s also surprising, because more Americans now take antidepressants (one out of ten in 2016, more than double the rate of the mid – 1990s). Antidepressants are especially effective against severe depression, the type most strongly linked to suicide among teens that started right around the same time smartphones became common. We can’t say for sure that smartphones are to blame, but the timing is very suspicious. With twice as many young teens killing themselves, something clearly needs to be done. (iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood by Jean M. Twenge, PhD)
For me the most powerful tool for finding hope when hopelessness exists is prayer. So when I did a Google search for prayers for kids struggling with anxiety, the prayer card for St. Dymphna popped up in the results.
There still seems to be such a stigma associated with a diagnosis of a mental health disorder or suicide. I commonly hear people indict the use of social media and or technology use as the reason for the rising numbers in mental health challenges and suicides. Yet technological tools like the USCCB sponsored “Made for Love” podcast recent episode that focused on the impact of suicide on Catholic families provides a well of support.
The resources that can be found through technology and social media are numerous. It is said “we have to meet people where they are,” as paraphrased from 1 Corinthinans 9:16-23. Where young people are is online and on their phones! We can’t turn the tide back on this, but we can act as digital disciples by sharing Catholic-themed posts and resources.
The need for ministries within our parishes to provide a supportive and spiritual community to families affected by members with mental health challenges is a priority. Maybe you will be inspired to begin one at your parish — pray about it!
In an article published in Aleteia titled Once we met Saint Dymphna, everything changed for good illustrates how powerful prayers to this saint can be.
In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s offer a novena for the intercession of St. Dymphna for the following intentions:
- For those whose brains have been injured by disease, injury or experiences.
- For those who don’t recognize their need for help, that they will seek the help they need.
- For all the people living with a mental illness of any kind.
- For parents of those living with mental illness, that they may accept their limits in caring for their children.
- For the children of those living with mental illness, that they will have the experience of loving and safe parents.
- For friends and family of those living with mental illness, that they may choose to offer a loving presence instead of seeking a quick fix.
- For those who are burdened by the stigma of their mental challenges find compassion.
- For mental health professionals who serve this community that prayer is practiced.
- For healing, hope and the scientist who work to create treatments to help those in need.
St. Dymphna Prayer
Lord God, Who has graciously chosen Saint Dymphna to be the patroness of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders, and has caused her to be an inspiration and a symbol of charity to the thousants who invoke her intercession, grant through the prayers of this pure, youthful martyr, relief and consolation to all who suffer from these disturbances, and especially to those for whom we now pray. (Here mention those for whom you wish to pray.)
We beg You to accept and grant the prayers of St. Dymphna on our behalf. Grant to those we have particularly recommended patience in their sufferings and resignation to your Divine Will. Fill them with hope and, if it is according to Your Divine Plan, bestow upon them the cure they so earnestly desire. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I pray this article helps someone who is feeling isolated or hopeless to have hope and a focused prayer tool from our faith tradition that will be offered by a community of other Catholic moms.
Copyright 2019 Sherry Hayes-Peirce