FALL RIVER — As one reads the headlines and is stunned by current events, one is reminded of how critical overall wellbeing is, and the importance of safeguarding and maintaining mental health. The Fall River Diocese’s Catholic Social Services is eager to partner with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers (catholicmhm.org), which has provided CSS with a grant to establish a mental health ministry in the diocese. This ministry’s main purpose is spiritual accompaniment: to accompany those with mental health issues, as well as their loved ones and caregivers, reminding them that they are not alone.

Through this ministry, parish communities can support those with mental health issues, along with their families and caregivers, in various ways such as:

• Establishing prayer groups that meet and pray for those impacted by mental health issues;

• Offering dedicated Masses;

• Celebrating feast days of the patron saints — St. Dymphna and St. John of God;

• Establishing support groups for individuals and families;

• Hosting educational events.

As part of the roll out plan and pilot, Catholic Social Services will begin spreading the word via bulletin announcements, parish meetings, and social media blasts.  

In order to ensure the success of this ministry, CSS is seeking the help of volunteers who are willing to be trained to accompany others and provide a welcoming environment that recognizes the one suffering as a child of God, and doesn’t reduce the person to an illness or label.

One of the biggest road blocks that many who suffer with any type of mental health problem is the stigma placed on them and their situation. In many cases, it is not malicious or intentional, but rather a misinformed and often myth-laden understanding of mental health and illness. Pope Francis said it is necessary to take action to “overcome the stigma that mental illness is often tainted with” (ANSA en Vatican, June 25, 2021).

The Mental Health Ministry is a step toward that goal. Its purpose is to invite, support and provide acceptance to those who may feel isolated and alone. Whatever the situation, be it physical health problems, relationship issues, or mental health concerns, people will be met with the awareness that we are all children of God, and are deserving of compassion, understanding, and love. 

One of the main components of the ministry is to prepare volunteers to serve as mental health ministers. 

Mental health ministers are not professionals, they do not advise, provide treatment options, or offer any clinical solutions. Rather, they simply provide a safe, welcoming environment in which individuals are made to feel as if they belong. They help individuals, families and caregivers break away from the stigma that isolates them. 

As CSS rolls out this ministry, it has created a dedicated website: www.catholicmhm.org/fallriver, where one can find resources, materials and other pertinent information about mental health and wellbeing. CSS will reach out to parishes to recruit volunteers for various roles in the ministry, and it will strive to educate and inform, so that it can reduce the stigma that shrouds mental health and mental health issues. 

To become a part of this exciting new venture, please call Catholic Social Services at: 508-674-4681.