RELIGION, CULTURE & MENTAL HEALTH
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- California's Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter outlining ways the church could do a better job of serving those who struggle with mental illness, stressing that it is an "essential part of the pastoral care of the church."
The letter, "Hope and Healing," was published in English, Spanish and Vietnamese online on the website of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, May 1, the start of the Mental Health Awareness Month.
It said all Catholics are "called to provide hope and healing to others" and in recognizing that every human life is sacred, they should not only "attend to those in our midst who suffer in body or mind" but also work with families, mental health professionals, community organizations and all individuals and institutions engaged in such work.
The bishops pointed out that often people with mental illness suffer in silence in contrast with those who have a medical illness and usually receive an outpouring of sympathy and support from their parish and community.
"This should not be so in our civic communities and cannot be so in our Catholic communities. Those living with a mental illness should never bear these burdens alone, nor should their families who struggle heroically to assist their loved ones," the letter said, emphasizing that Christians must "encounter them, accompany them, comfort them and help bear their burdens in solidarity with them -- offering our understanding, prayers and tangible and ongoing assistance."
The California bishops also identified the scope and burden of mental illness today, noting that the National Institute of Mental Health says one in five adults in the U.S. suffered from a mental disorder over the last year and nearly 10 million American adults -- about one in 25 -- have a mental illness that is severe enough to cause serious functional impairment. And 20 percent of adolescents currently have, or previously had, a seriously debilitating mental disorder, according to the institute.
They point out the increase of depression and anxiety for young people, the rise in suicides from men and women in nearly every age group, the number of drug overdoses and alcohol-related death, and the current opioid crisis.
They note that the nation's jails and homeless populations are filled with people suffering from mental illness, which they called "unacceptable."
"These crises of our time represent an urgent call to all Catholics. We must respond," the bishop letter said.
One response is not to stigmatize or judge those suffering a mental illness because it is "neither a moral failure nor a character defect" nor a "sign of insufficient faith or weakness of will."
The bishops also noted that Christian faith and religious practice "do not immunize a person against mental illness" noting that leaders and even saints "suffered from mental disorders or severe psychological wounds."
The suffering produced by mental illness is something that Catholics should have a distinctive understanding about, knowing that Catholics are not promised freedom from suffering or affliction and that spiritual practices "will not cure mental disorders or alleviate all emotional suffering," the bishops said.
What is needed to improve mental health care, the bishops said, is cooperation from church members and leaders, health care professionals and scientific researchers.
In response to those who say psychiatry or clinical psychology are not compatible with Catholic faith, the bishops said discernment is necessary and that "good science that recognizes the life and dignity of people and the Catholic faith are never at odds." They also pointed out that "medical science has discovered many useful treatments to help those with mental illness, and Catholics should welcome and make use of these -- including medications, psychotherapy and other medical interventions."
But at the same time, Catholics struggling with mental illness or helping those with this should not "neglect the role of pastoral care and spiritual direction." The bishops note that the sacramental life of the church can "provide grace and spiritual strength."
They also acknowledged the increasing amount of medical research demonstrating health benefits of prayer and meditation, religious worship, active participation in faith-based activities, groups and communities, and cultivating Christian virtues like gratitude and forgiveness.
"These spiritual practices -- while they do not entirely prevent or cure mental illness -- can reduce the risk of mental health problems and can assist in recovery. Modern medicine is rediscovering that there is a deep connection between the body and the soul: What affects the one has profound effects on the other," they added.
The bishops' letter-- http://www.cacatholic.org/resources/mental-health -- also provides links to resources and programs that serve as models for parishes and communities which the bishops describe as "a good starting point."
They stressed that Pope Francis has encouraged Catholics "not to remain securely behind the doors of our parishes, but to reach out to everyone, especially those who are marginalized and forgotten" -- a call that must include people who suffer from severe and persistent mental illnesses. "For them, our communities and parishes should be places of refuge and healing, not places of rejection or judgment," the bishops said.
They also said that outreach should be proactive rather than reactive and should make sure that those who need help are also resources for others.
Another solution is simply to get to know or befriend those struggling with mental illness, to listen to them, walk with them or pray with them.
"Prayer is a powerful source of healing and peace. Some parishes are teaching teams of people in their parishes to be available to pray with people: It can make a great difference when we move from praying for people to praying with them," the letter says.
The bishops said families who have experienced a suicide of a loved one also need help from their Catholic communities. They said the church "teaches that suicide is contrary to the will of God who gave us life," but at the same time it recognizes in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide."
They also said those who lose a loved one to suicide need particular care and attention, often for considerable periods of time. "Catholics must convey to them that we are not afraid to open this difficult conversation, that they need not feel ashamed to discuss their profound anguish and loss," and parishioners and leaders must be "willing to walk this long road with suicide survivors, to help console them with our unconditional friendship and with sensitive pastoral care."
The letter ends with a message of hope saying the church "never abandons those who suffer from mental illness" and that in eternity with God "every beautiful thing in our lives that is now unfinished will be completed, all the good that is scattered will be gathered together, everything that is lost will be found, all hopes that are now thwarted will be realized and all that is broken will finally be restored."
Source: OSV NewsWeekly
Mental health of people in south Cumbria made worse by 'humiliating' benefit assessments
National charity Mind says nine out of 10 people were negatively affected by being assessed
A LEADING figure in the south Cumbria mental health community says benefit assessments are a "process of humiliation" for those who experience them.
Jane Gordon, chief executive of Ulverston Mind, says an increasing number of clients come to them with their conditions exacerbated because of changes to the benefit system.
Nationally Mind has said for nine out of 10 benefit claimants assessments for Personal Independence Payments made their mental health worse.
Ms Gordon said: "We have had people here concerned who have applied for benefits because they cannot work. It's a process of humiliation. The process makes them feel like they are not a credible person."
"It's a process of humiliation. The process makes them feel like they are not a credible person"
PIP was introduced in 2013 as a replacement for Disability Living Allowance. People being assessed for PIP are seen by a healthcare professional and scored on how much help they need. This has led to thousands seeing a reduction in the amount of benefit they are entitled to.
Barrow Mind, which also covers Millom, said it too was seeing a higher proportion of people negatively affected by reassessment.
First contact worker Laura Clawson deals with people attending Mind in Furness in crisis.
She said: "We have noticed a significant increase in the deterioration of people’s mental health as a direct result of them receiving yet another form, assessment and/or medical regarding their benefitchanges. We would say this is in line with national Mind's statistics."
Even though the situation in south Cumbria is a difficult one, Ms Gordon says mental health counsellors are trained to provide as much support as possible.
She said: "We make sure that people have access to someone even just to talk to. It can be really crushing for people, in particular families in the run-up to Christmas."
The Mail contacted the Department for Work and Pensions but no comment was made before the time of publication.
Reassessment: The consequences
First contact worker at MIND in Furness, Laura Clawson elaborated on just what is causing people's mental health to deteriorate when they are reassessed.
She said: "Most of the people we see are having their benefits re-assessed and as a result have financial worries.
“This impacts on their lifestyle and choices, meaning they have to decide between putting food on the table, making a phone call to support workers at MIND in Furness or getting a bus to see us but unable to do all three.
“This leads to further isolation which escalates their poor mental health.
“We have also seen more and more people needing food bank vouchers as a result of benefit sanctions.
“We offer help and counselling for this issue and we are increasingly attending personal independence payment and employment support allowance appointments with individuals and helping them with associated housing issues.”
What other help is available?
First Step centres across Cumbria offer free talking therapies across the county for people suffering a range of conditions.
These include: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
You can be referred by your GP or by filling in a form yourself online.
Anyone can also contact the Samaritans, 24 hours a day, all year round on the free phone number 116 123.
Duchess of Cambridge speaks on mental health:
It is not only adults who increasingly face mental health issues. The Duchess of Cambridge recently spoke about on the importance of supporting children in school to avoid future mental health problems.
In a speech at a Place2Be forum on how schools can tackle mental health problems she said: "I believe what you all know to be true, that getting help and support to young children at the very earliest stage helps improve their outcomes later in life.
"Whether we are school leaders, teachers, support staff or parents we are all in this together.
"We are all working to give children the emotional strength they need to face their future lives and thrive."
A spokesman from DWP said: "Assessments for PIP and ESA are carried out by health professionals who are trained to understand multiple and complex conditions, including mental health.
“PIP looks specifically at how someone’s life is affected by mental health, unlike the old system which did not sufficiently recognise mental health problems. In fact, there are now more people with a mental health condition receiving the higher rates of both PIP components. Regular reassessments mean we can ensure people get the help they need as their condition changes."
NW Evening Mail
Some female inmates with serious mental-health conditions are being sent to a men's facility for treatment, a practice the federal prison ombudsman calls "completely unacceptable" in a new report.
Canada's correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, also said that while the use of solitary confinement has decreased significantly in the past few years, conditions "continue to be problematic" and Indigenous inmates are still overrepresented.
In his first report since being appointed to the job in January, Mr. Zinger focused on the conditions of confinement in Canada's federal prisons, which "serve no underlying correctional or rehabilitative purpose."
The wide-ranging report touched on everything from poor food quality, unsatisfactory work opportunities and unsafe transport vehicles, making 17 recommendations to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). It also calls for terminally ill inmates to be able to access medical assistance in dying, as well as a safe tattooing program in federal prisons.
In particular, Mr. Zinger's report highlighted the treatment of female offenders, especially those classified as maximum-security inmates.
Mr. Zinger found that women with serious mental-health issues are more likely to be placed in maximum-security units, which are "far from therapeutic," and noted nearly half the maximum-security population in women's prisons is Indigenous.
While Indigenous people make up less than 5 per cent of the total population, they comprise 26.4 per cent of the total federal inmate population, the report said. In the case of women offenders, 37.6 per cent are Indigenous.
"I cannot help but think that the over-incarceration of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in corrections is among the most pressing social-justice and human-rights issues in Canada today," Mr. Zinger said in his report.
Mr. Zinger criticized the federal prison system for not having a stand-alone treatment facility for women with serious mental-health problems.
He pointed to cases of acutely ill female offenders on the West Coast who are being sent to a men's psychiatric facility and kept separate and alone, which he said contravenes international human-rights standards. Mr. Zinger called for more treatment spaces for mentally ill women and a ban on such transfers.
"It's just unacceptable. You do not put a woman in an all-male institution, completely isolated in segregation-like conditions," Mr. Zinger told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa.
In cases of complex or significant mental illness, his office is calling for inmates to be placed in external psychiatric hospitals.
"There continues to be inadequate treatment space for significantly mentally ill persons who cannot be safely or humanely managed in a federal correctional facility," the report said.
In a response to Mr. Zinger's report, the CSC said it will enshrine in policy that men's treatment facilities be used to house mentally ill women "only in emergency circumstances" and only for short periods of time. The CSC also said it has an external expert looking into women's mental-health needs.
"CSC fully supports the recommendation to provide hospital-level care for mentally ill women at local external community psychiatric hospitals," it said.
The report also found that administrative segregation – the CSC term for the practice of isolating inmates for upward of 22 hours a day – has sharply declined in the past three years.
As of Jan. 1, there were 391 inmates in solitary, compared with 780 in April, 2014. "That's extraordinary, and that's a really good thing," Mr. Zinger said. But he added that many units lack proper ventilation, natural light and windows, with exercise "yards" that are little more than bare concrete pens topped with barbed wire. Indigenous inmates in solitary are still overrepresented, he said.
The average stay in solitary has dropped from 34.5 days in 2014-15 to 23.1 days in 2016-17, the report said. The United Nations' Mandela Rules define prolonged solitary confinement as a period lasting more than 15 days.
In June, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-56, which proposes a 21-day segregation threshold for all inmates locked away in segregation, as well as an independent review if inmates are kept longer. Eighteen months after the legislation is passed, the threshold would drop to 15 days. The bill has yet to progress in Parliament.
The federal government also made funding investments in the 2017 budget to help address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal-justice system, and for mental-health care in prisons, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement.
"I am committed to ensuring that Canada's correctional system is fair, humane and effective," he said.
The Globe and Mail
The Swedish government has ordered the Public Health Authority to carry out an in depth study into the living conditions and mental health of transgender people.
The decision comes after a report showed that mental illness is widespread among transgender people in Sweden and a large percentage of them have at some point considered taking their own lives.
The authorities will also allocate project grants to non-profit organizations working with mental health and to prevent suicide among transgender people, with a focus on the young.
"Young trans people are a group where suicidal tendencies have increased in an especially clear way -- we can't have that. We need to make targeted efforts," said Minister for Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll.
The Public Health Authority has been given 1.6 million kronor for the project.
A report based on a comprehensive survey of transgender people shows that 60 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 19 have considered taking their lives at some point over the past year, while 40 percent have attempted suicide.
The report was created by the Public Health Authority together with the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute.
Until earlier this year, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare automatically applied the diagnosis “gender dysphoria” to transgender patients, following a World Health Organization decision to remove the transsexualism classification from the chapter on mental illness in its diagnostic guide.
Transgender people have complained of receiving unwelcome questions and stigmatizing treatment when dealing with health professionals in Sweden.
As part of efforts to create awareness on the consequences of mental health issues on Nigerians and the economy, a mental health expert and the Chief Executive Officer, The Retreat Healthcare, Dr. Olufemi Oluwatayo, has called on the citizens to avoid factors that cause mental health issues.
He said mental health in a workplace was one of the challenges affecting the productivity of a society, hence the need to tackle it.
Stating this in a message to mark this year’s Mental Health Day, the Consultant Psychiatrist, said while most Nigerians spend significant parts of their lifetime at work in order to add more meaning to their lives and improve their self esteem, the work itself and the environment where it takes place can have a negative impact on the people if not managed properly.
“Employees suffering from mental health issues are likely to have impaired work output. This is therefore in the interest of the employer to support them to recover as soon as possible and to provide a workplace that foster mental well-being.
“In Nigeria, there are no data on financial losses to businesses resulting from poor mental health of employees. Estimates from the UK indicate that up to £70 billion pounds is lost annually due to mental ill health and reduced productivity of employees with up to 20 per cent of the workforce taking on average, one day off annually because of stress and other mental health related issues.”
He said it was obvious that poor mental health of individual employees has significant repercussions for businesses including poor motivation, increased staff turnover, sickness, absence due to stress, burnout and exhaustion.
For employers of labour and organisations to provide enabling working environment for their employees and help them deal with mental health issues, the Psychiatrist said awareness represents the starting point, such that employers recognise that they have a responsibility to their employees, some of which are statutory.
“The workplace must be an environment that challenge, support and help develop a sense of purpose of the employees. A mentally healthy workplace is built on good basic line management relationships, clear human relations policies and engagement of staff in decision making.
“There should be a clear grievance process and ways of seeking redress when things go wrong. When employees have a mental disorder and it is disclosed, employers must keep the information confidential and the employee should be supported to return to work after recovery with reasonable adjustments made to their job if necessary and/or be allowed to return in a graded fashion or be placed in less demanding and more appropriate roles within the organisation. There should be access to stress management courses, occupational health services and to mental health specialists, preferably outsourced,” Oluwatayo stated.
On the employees’ part, he said they are under no obligation to disclose a mental disorder to their employers except on some positions that for instance involve having contacts with vulnerable people.
He said, however, it would be impossible for the employers to provide support if nothing is disclosed. “This is obviously a very sensitive issue in our society with potential adverse outcomes including loss of job and inappropriate use of the disclosed information. This is further compounded by the general culture of silence in our society when it comes to talking about mental health issues or how it impacts us.”
World Mental Health Day is commemorated every year on October 10. The Retreat, Nigeria’s first privately-owned mental health facility, joined health stakeholders in marking the day through awareness programmes.
COURTESY OF MARIE ERIEL HOBRO
Marie Eriel Hobro, 21, said her parents didn’t want to talk about the family’s history of mental illness.
When Sandy Tran, 24, was in seventh grade, she locked herself in a bedroom on her birthday. Her mom became angry, and things quickly escalated to a shouting match. At the end of the night, Tran stood in the doorway of the kitchen and said, “I think I might be depressed.”
Her parents just stared, not saying anything, she recalls.
“That was that first experience of coming out with mental health issues. It was shot down quite quickly,” Tran said.
Years later, she realized most of her family members suffered from symptoms of depression. One night, her brother had to go to the hospital after months of undereating. Her family was worried about his physical condition, as he was severely underweight. But when doctors attempted to give him a psychological evaluation, Tran’s parents declined.
Looking back, Tran says, “My parents didn’t take into account that it was a mental stress situation. They were just like, ‘You need to eat.’”
“Being Asian, especially from an immigrant Asian family, we avoid these things,” Tran said. “There’s ... a cultural idea that if you have a mental illness, you’re kind of like a person in the family that needs to be hidden away.”
"My family has always been like, ‘You’re just sad.’ It took them a long time to understand."
-Marie Eriel Hobro, 21
When it comes to seeking help for mental health, the Asian-American community lags behind other groups, including by avoiding it completely. In fact, research shows Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health help than white Americans.
In the case of Asian immigrants like Tran’s family, many come from cultures that do not see mental illness as a legitimate illness, leading to stigma.
But a new generation of mental health care providers is trying to change that. They’re offering services like family-directed therapy and employing specialists who speak different languages to help immigrants who can’t comfortably express themselves in English.
Dr. Samantha Liu of Asian Community Mental Health Services has seen the effects of mental health stigma firsthand in her 20 years as a psychiatrist. She specializes in working with Asian-American patients, especially Chinese-Americans.
“When I see them, a lot of these patients come to me in severe conditions compared to patients of other ethnicities,” Liu said. “By the time they go to the doctor or psychiatrist, they are already in bad condition. It’s very hard for them to recover.”
Marie Eriel Hobro, 21, felt constantly paranoid throughout high school, fearing that people were trying to kill her. But it wasn’t until college that she was diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although she tried therapy a few times, she would “run away” from it, she said.
A turning point came when her uncle died by suicide, and Hobro realized she needed to get help. Now, she’s been on medication and therapy for almost a year.
Although Hobro’s family supports her decisions, her parents are still unwilling to talk about the family’s history of mental illness.
After her uncle’s suicide, Hobro’s dad denied that he had killed himself. Her grandmother would often say that anxiety and depression is “just in the mind,” she said. And initially, Hobro had resisted seeking help herself, because she felt too prideful.
“As a Filipina woman, it’s very hard for people in my culture to talk about mental illness,” Hobro said. “Now they’re opening up to it, and they’re happy that I’m getting ahold of myself. My family has always been like, ‘You’re just sad.’ It took them a long time to understand.”
Struggling To Bring Up Family Secrets
Liu said Hobro’s experience is common. People with mental health issues often resist their family members’ suggestions that they seek help, she said, but it’s the patient who must give consent for treatment.
“There is a fear among the community that if anyone finds out, they will be ostracized,” said Dr. Vasudev N. Makhija, founder and president of the South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network. “They will be worried about what others think and might say. Even for seeking emotional support, they just keep quiet and just suffer in silence instead.”
Many psychiatrists who focus on Asian-American communities believe it’s most effective to educate the entire family while treating the patient.
One approach that works is informing the immediate family, said Dr. Albert Gaw of Asian Community Mental Health Services, who has written about best practices for working with Asian-American patients. Makhija agrees, saying that when he sees Asian-American patients, the family often accompanies the patient to the interview room ― with the patient’s consent.
Using this strategy, doctors will fully inform the family about the medications and treatment, as well as what symptoms to watch out for.
“You cannot divorce the family from individual care,” Gaw said, “but in the American culture, usually patients are being treated as an individual.”
Community Outreach Is Slow, But Improving
To spread awareness about mental health in Asian-American communities, some organizations host public workshops, health camps and community outreach events that offer screenings and discussion of common conditions like depression and substance abuse.
It can be difficult to get people to attend these events, Makhija says, but it helps when patients work with doctors who have similar backgrounds or who speak the same language. Getting help from a native speaker can help immigrants feel like they’ll be understood.
“In psychiatry, people have to explain their deepest emotions,” Liu said. “It’s not like other types of illness, like saying, ‘My chest hurts’ or ‘My leg is broken.’ People often need their native language to be able to comfortably express how they feel.”
Likewise, it helps to hear from other people in the community who have sought treatment and are open about their experiences with mental illness. This type of visibility helps decrease stigma.
Roopak Desai, 44, who moved to the U.S. from India, started seeing Makhija earlier this year. Since then, he has decided to volunteer with the South Asian Mental Health Initiative and Network, hoping to spread awareness to other South Asian immigrants that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Although he just started volunteering, he plans to participate in presentations, panel discussions and other events.
Desai recalls attending therapy with his family after he had his first anxiety episode in high school. Although his parents were supportive about him seeking treatment, they did not want it out in the open.
Throughout his life, Desai would receive therapy and medicine on and off, usually after an anxiety episode occurred. Before, he would stop taking his medicine once he started to recover, but he’s since learned that he needs to keep taking it.
“People say I’m suffering from diabetes, I’m suffering from this disease or that,” Desai said. “But [mental illness] never came to the open. You don’t hear, ‘My son, my husband, has certain conditions and has depression.’”
For Asian-Americans who may be in a similar situation, Desai has two pieces of advice.
“There is nothing wrong if you’re depressed or feeling anxious or having panic attacks,” Desai said. “Second point, you should not be feeling bad that you have to reach out to psychiatrists. It’s nothing wrong. It’s equivalent to any other specialist. Take the right medicine.”
Former prime minister Gordon Brown has claimed there is now "a full-blown mental health emergency" in Scotland.
It comes after the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy announced it is to hire its own mental health workers.
The Fife charity provides support to vulnerable families and is launching a £100,000 fundraising campaign to help meet demand for counselling staff and a new family therapeutic worker.
The Scottish government said mental health was a "priority".
The Cottage Family Centre is one of Scotland's biggest children's charities.
Mr Brown, who is due to be named as honorary patron of the centre, said the NHS was "facing one of its worst-ever crises".
He said: "NHS crises should have been a thing of the past.
"Of course the Scottish government is free to spend as it sees fit but its decisions mean that far less is being invested in the NHS than the Barnett formula ever intended.
"In effect, it has left the NHS in Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds short of what it should have.
"The crisis in Fife mirrors what is happening across the entire country. There is now a full-blown mental health emergency."
Pauline Buchan, service manager at The Cottage, said: "The new project will provide training and mentoring for an identified group of adolescents whose emotional well-being is causing concern, and who are experiencing difficulty attending and engaging with school and other social situations.
"It is important to recognise the impact mental health can have on the family unit."
NHS Fife is one of five health boards in the country which did not meet the Scottish government's 18-week waiting time standard for child and adolescent mental health treatment in figures published on Tuesday.
The Scottish government said the NHS budget had increased by £3bn in the last ten years and it was committed to a further increase of £2bn by the end of this Parliament.
Minister for Mental Health Maureen Watt added: "Mental health is a priority for this government which is why we are putting in place a ten year strategy. This sets out how we can improve early intervention, have better access to services and better responses in primary care settings.
"We have doubled the number of child and adolescent mental health service psychology posts and are investing an extra £150m in mental health over five years.
"We will also be commissioning a review into rejected child and adolescent mental health service referrals as a foundation for making further improvements."
The young Catholic writer Matthew Schmitz recently published an article that quickly went viral. In “The Kids Are Old Rite,” Schmitz argues that many younger Catholics do not want an accommodated Catholicism; they prefer the older forms of worship, taking a kind of clandestine joy in the Latin Mass, for example.
As an evangelical theologian, I read this dispatch from the post-Vatican II wilds with interest. Modernity, or what some call postmodernity, declared war on traditional religion, and even the religious joined in the fray. Out with the old ways, in with “If you like Secular Artist X, you’ll love Christian Artist Y” culture.
In many Protestant churches, the traditional hymnbook is long gone, the order of service is as casually stated as open mic night at the local gastropub, and the pulpit—lovely hand-carved wood, sturdy, signifying the enduring authority of the Word of God—molds in a basement somewhere.
Here is the strangest thing: I see among young evangelicals what Schmitz sees among young Catholics. The kids want that old-time religion. They’re showing up all over the place, including at seminaries like mine in Kansas City. Here are three reasons behind the recent resurgence of young travelers on the old paths.
1. Modernity Has Detonated Tradition
Our society, which thinks it is an emergent techno-utopia, seems more and more to resemble rebellious, roiling, late eighteenth-century Paris. Religious types are targeted; monuments to cultural history are removed; everywhere we hear frenzied talk of progress and equality. What was it that Lafayette said in 1790? “Insurrection is the holiest of duties.” We pursue insurrection today with religious zeal. Religious groups—and religious individuals—receive punishment for abiding by their beliefs. When we study history, we study it primarily to overturn it, rarely to learn from it.
This kind of mentality has affected the church. Many evangelical youth have little connection to their Christian heritage. But they are doing their part to recover it. They want to be part of something ancient that reaches way back. They actually like liturgy, whether the strong or softer version. They have been encouraged to make everything up for themselves, to believe unceasingly in their own brilliance, but they seem to distrust these exhortations, rightly understanding them to be anything but freeing.
You may have sensed these currents yourself when attending a wedding, funeral, or similar ceremony. The old rules have relaxed, but when tragedy or great occasions come, we do not instinctually hold a cookout. We still—though we have been relentlessly indoctrinated to hate rituals and despise formality—want a ceremony.
And we still want someone to lead the ceremony. It is an awkward thing indeed to have the now-ubiquitous “sharing time” at such events. Nobody seems to know what to say. There is no structure. We all put our heads down and yearn for the weirdness to end.
The old ways are not perfect, of course. But we cannot miss that having an order of service relieves pressure and helps us savor the moment. As in major life moments, so it is in church. Most sincere churchgoers do not want to lead the service; they want to be led. This leads to our second observation.
2. Modernity Has Undermined Conviction
It’s well-established that postmodernity is, at base, a critique of authority. If you undermine authority, you undermine the essence of conviction. You no longer stand for principles; you hold to certain communal “values,” perhaps, but these are less ideals you would die for and more passive-aggressive mental gestures (to modify Trilling). “Tolerance.” “Unity.” “Together.” The dark irony of postmodernism, however, is that it is no less authoritarian than previous authorities. It is actually fanatical about its broad-brush commitments, yet generates no concomitant doctrine of religious liberty or free speech. Postmodernity is actually hard modernity—no, smashmouth modernity.
This has also affected the religious. Some evangelical churches have opted to play the postmodern game. They have raised their youth on entertainment, funny stories, and soft spirituality. But the youth, to a serious extent, do not hold up their end of the bargain. The seminary students I encounter have not packed up and moved thousands of miles to undertake demanding classes in theology, exegesis, history, and ethics because they wish to be entertained. They want the strong water rather than the weak stuff. They want theology. They know that “Ten Steps to Your Best You” is not going to sustain them through a miscarriage or death of a parent. They need biblical truth and wisdom, as will their congregants.
3. Modernity Has Undermined Beauty
We often hear today that there is no objective standard of beauty. It’s amusing to hear this, because never have we more fallen in the thrall of objective standards of beauty. Have you been to a gym lately, the kind full to the gills of barely-clothed twentysomethings affecting a “stay away” posture that is really a veiled “come hither” mentality? As a culture, we are fairly obsessed with surface-level beauty.
Postmodern architecture represents a form of this rebellion against established standards. Le Corbusier famously defined the home as a “machine for living.” Many modern church buildings follow this line of thought—they are functional, not beautiful. This is not evil, of course, but neither does it satisfy the hunger in every human heart for beauty, for order, even for grandeur. No one is going to tour a multi-use facility on his day off; tourists will not come from all over the world to see warehouses or industrial parks. They will, though, spend prodigious amounts of money simply to wander through cathedrals, mouths agape at what they see.
The younger generation wants something more than functionalism. They do not want to gather in “machines for worship.” They yearn for transcendence. They have grown up disillusioned; many are the children of dissolved marriages and torn-apart homes. They have gotten degrees from schools that offer little in the way of philosophical or spiritual inquiry, let alone uplift; they have been trained to be pragmatic, practical, and to get ahead.
Yet there persists in many souls a longing for something greater, something vaster, something ethereal. Evangelical churches possess infinite resources for such discoveries, and some seem to be making good on this inheritance. Formal instruction in religion seems to have disappeared in many colleges and universities, but the younger generation still has a soul, still craves the infinite, still cannot help but brush up against the numinous.
Against all the odds, or perhaps because of them, the kids are getting that old-time religion. From my little corner of the evangelical world, I see this in spades. The youngsters like serious expository sermons. They flock by the thousands to conferences where grandfathers in normcore Dockers exhort them to gospel-driven holiness.
They love older songs, often set to bluegrass-style melodies. They do not wish to hang out only with their peers. They crave help from older, established married couples who can help them figure out the bewildering particulars of covenant marriage. They want help. They want stability, truth, beauty.
Postmodernity—smashmouth modernity—has robbed them of these things. But the soul is not outmoded, and the Word of God is not bound.
Owen Strachan is the author of The Colson Way: Loving Your Neighbor and Living with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson). He is a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Islamabad: Islamic fasting brings miracles if observed in accordance with the teachings of Islam by improving physical and mental health of a person and maintaining self-discipline and managing anger while convincing one to think seriously of taking steps to improve self-management.
Fasting for a whole month in Ramazan helps breaking addictions to harmful substances like tobacco, drugs, alcohol, tea, coffee and other habit-forming beverages. It improves functioning of almost all body systems along with minimising personal hostility and brings peace of mind and heart.
Fasting also serves as a means to improve the fabric of society by improving humanistic approach and increasing tolerance among individuals. It also serves as a means of self purgation. Statistics reveal that the crime rate in Muslim countries falls during the month of Ramazan.
Health experts believe that fasting in Ramazan provides opportunity to Muslims for an exercise in self-discipline as it helps breaking bad habits of those who are chain smokers or who nibble food constantly, or drink coffee or tea every hour.
Medically it is proven that fasting gives complete rest to the stomach, intestines and colon enabling the body systems to repair damaged structures. Piles, colitis, and gastritis etc speedily recover under the fast.
The alimentary tract becomes practically free of bacteria during fast and the small intestine become sterile. The process of decomposing and eliminating waste toxic materials by means of Islamic fasting improves and it can help curing cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, diseases of the digestive system, diseases of locomotor system, including rheumatism, respiratory system diseases including asthma, and the early stages of malignant cancer.
A number of health experts have expressed to ‘The News’ that fasting helps normalising metabolism in the body and dissolving mucus diseases such as colds, asthma, sinus and bronchial troubles.
Experts say that metabolism is improved through fasting and it strengthens the capability of the body to absorb proteins, fats, carbohydrates, starches, sugars, minerals, vitamins and all other essential nutrients necessary because all organs work properly due to fasting for a month.
Fasting has great physiological effects as it helps lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of systolic blood pressure. Many experts say that fasting can be an ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.
Head of Community Medicine at CMH Lahore Medical College Professor Dr Muhammad Ashraf Chaudhry believes that fasting is a natural way to normalize body weight as it dissolves all unnecessary and unnatural fat deposits all over the body and the body is relieved of a tremendous burden.
Those who fast look younger than those who don’t, he said. He said fasting in Ramazan has great psychological effects as it brings peace and tranquillity for those who fast for a whole month. Fasting is a means of conquering one’s anger and during fasting; recitation of the Holy Quran not only produces a tranquillity of heart and mind, but also improves memory, he said.
It is important that psychological improvement results in better stabilization of blood glucose during fasting. Studies have revealed that stress increases the blood glucose by increasing the catecholamine level and any tool to lower the stress like biofeedback or relaxation improves diabetic control. Thus, Islamic fasting during Ramazan has a potentially beneficial effect with regard to diabetic control.
According to Deputy Director at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Dr. Waseem Ahmed Khawaja, extra prayer during Ramazan including ‘taraveeh’ are highly beneficial as these help controlling body weight apart from giving a deep feeling of satisfaction.
He, however, opines that patients with diabetes having higher levels of sugar in their blood should not fast without informing their doctor while patients with stomach ulcer should fast after taking doctor’s advice. Patients with hepatitis B or C must consult their physicians before going for fasting while patients who have developed complications of hepatitis B or C should not fast at all, said Dr. Khawaja.
Health experts say that to get maximum benefits of fasting, individuals should follow a proper diet plan during Ramazan.
Dr. Ashraf explains that one should take healthy diet in Íftar’, and ‘Sehar’ such as ‘fruit chaat’, ‘vegetable salads’, along with ‘macronis’; simple ‘chapati’, whole wheat bread, pulses, fish, poultry, milk, yoghurt, dates, juices, soups, boiled rice, potatoes, and peas etc and should avoid unhealthy diet such as deep-fried foods including ‘samosas’, ‘pakoras’, ‘kachoris’, ‘jalabis’, and ‘parathas’, excessive usage of spices, tea, coffee, cola or other beverages etc. because all these foods increase your blood Low Density Lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) which is bad for your health and for your heart.
He suggested that one should limit the amount of sweet food during Ramazan. Consumption of excessive amounts of food during ‘Sehar’, or Iftar’ is a dangerous practice. Instead, it is advisable to have a modest dinner around one to one-and-a-half hour after ‘Iftar’, but not later. Delaying dinner until the very end of the night is a dangerous practice, and it is important to finish eating at least two hours before going to bed, he said.
Source -THE NEWS
The Syria Civil War has exposed millions of civilians to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Anxiety is common among Syrian refugee children, affecting more than four in five children, according to research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego.
The research was led by Arash Javanbakht, M.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic in Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. A bilingual team of researchers recruited participants (age 6-80) at primary care clinics in Southeastern Michigan where refugees receive health assessments within the first month following arrival in the U.S. They screened adults for PTSD and children for anxiety.
They analyzed information from 59 children, an average age of just over 11 years old, from 20 families. Based on the screening, 61 percent of children had probable anxiety diagnosis and 85 percent had probable separation anxiety diagnosis. PTSD symptoms were common among all adults and more common among mothers than fathers. A higher total anxiety score among children was associated with higher PTSD score among mothers. Children with probable separation anxiety were more likely to be younger.
The high prevalence of anxiety suggests that interventions are acutely needed for refugee children from Syria, according to Arfken and colleagues.
This research is part of a larger study of Syrian refugees that will examine unique cultural factors within this population and look at potential biological markers of trauma.
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