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Spirituality and Mental Health



Here is an interesting & balanced article from the Royal College of Psychiatrists - concerning Spirituality in relation to good mental health.

Read the full article here -


What is spirituality?

In healthcare, spirituality is identified with experiencing a deep-seated sense of meaning and purpose in life, together with a sense of belonging. It is about acceptance, integration and wholeness.

According to one definition, “The spiritual dimension tries to be in harmony with the universe, strives for answers about the infinite, and comes especially into focus in times of emotional stress, physical and mental illness, loss, bereavement and death.” This desire for wholeness of being is not an intellectual attainment, for it is no less present in people with learning disability, but lies in the essence of what it means to be human.

From the spiritual perspective, a distinction can be made between cure, or relief of symptoms, and healing of the whole person. Life is a perpetual journey of discovery and development, during which maturity is often gained through adversity. The relief of suffering remains a primary aim of health care, but it is by no means the whole story.

How is spirituality distinguished from religion?

Spirituality, described as “linking the deeply personal with the universal”, is inclusive and unifying. It naturally leads to the recognition that to harm another is to harm oneself, and equally that helping others is to help oneself. It applies to everyone, including those who do not believe in God or a ‘higher being’.

The universality of spirituality extends across creed and culture; at the same time spirituality is felt as unique to each and every person.

Religions offer community-based worship, each faith having its own set of beliefs and sacred traditions. However, when there is a lack of respect for differences of belief, religion has been used as a social and political tool leading to intolerance and divisiveness.
Components of spiritual health care

Surveys of mental health patients have shown the need for:

* an environment for purposeful activity such as creative art, structured work and enjoying nature;

* feeling safe and secure. Being treated with respect and dignity allows you to develop a feeling of belonging, of being valued and trusted;

* having time to express feelings to sympathetic and concerned members of staff;

* opportunities and encouragement to make sense of, and derive meaning from, experiences including illness;

* permission and encouragement to develop a relationship with God or the Absolute (however the person conceives whatever is sacred).

People need a time, a place and privacy in which to pray and worship, the opportunity to explore spiritual (and sometimes religious) matters, encouragement in deepening faith, feeling universally connected and perhaps also forgiven.

What are the benefits of paying attention to the spiritual dimension?

Patients have identified the following benefits of good quality spiritual care:

* improved self-control, self-esteem and confidence;

* faster and easier recovery, achieved through both promoting the healthy grieving of loss and maximising personal potential;

* improved relationships – with self, others and with God/creation/nature;

* a new sense of meaning, resulting in reawakening of hope and peace of mind, enabling people to accept and live with problems not yet resolved.

Recognising and assessing the religious and spiritual aspects of a person’s life

A helpful way to begin is simply to ask ‘what sustains you?’ or ‘what keeps you going in difficult times?’ A person’s answer to this usually indicates his or her main spiritual concerns and pursuits.

There are two aspects to look at:

* What helpful inner personal resources can be encouraged?

* What external supports from the community and/or faith tradition are available?

A gentle, unhurried approach works best. In this way, as well as gathering information, the process can have important therapeutic value.

The following five headings list some additional helpful questions to ask and consider.

Setting the scene

What is your life all about? Is there anything that gives you a particular sense of meaning or purpose?

The past Emotional stress usually involves some kind of loss, or the threat of loss. Have you experienced any major losses or bereavements? What has been the effect, and what ways of coping have you tried?

The present

Do you experience a feeling of belonging and being valued, a sense of safety, respect and dignity? Is there openness of communication both ways between you and other people?

Does there seem to be a spiritual aspect to the current problem? Would it help to involve a chaplain, or someone from your faith community? What more needs to be appreciated about your particular religious background?

The future

What does the immediate future seem to hold? What about the longer term? Is there a concern with death and dying, or about the possibility of an afterlife? Would it be helpful to discuss this more? What are your main fears regarding the future? Do you feel the need for forgiveness about anything? What, if anything, gives you hope?


What kind of support would help you? How can it be asked for and from whom? Have you considered any self-help options?
Spiritual practices

These span a wide range, from the religious to secular:

* belonging to a faith tradition, participating in associated community-based activities;

* ritual and symbolic practices and other forms of worship;

* pilgrimage and retreats;

* meditation and prayer;

* reading scripture;

* sacred music (listening to, singing and playing) including songs, hymns, psalms and devotional chants;

* acts of compassion (including work, especially teamwork);

* deep reflection (contemplation);

* yoga, Tai Chi and similar disciplined practices;

* engaging with and enjoying nature;

* contemplative reading (of literature, poetry, philosophy etc.);

* appreciation of the arts and engaging in creative activities, including artistic pursuits, cookery, gardening etc.;

* maintaining stable family relationships and friendships (especially those involving high levels of trust and intimacy);

* group or team sports, recreational or other activity involving a special quality of fellowship.......


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