Mental Health: Is Wearing Our Heart on Our Sleeve Good for the Soul? 

Comment:

News commentators are enjoying dissecting the ITV documentary interview with Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, generally known as “Harry & Meghan”, in which they both speak very openly about the negative impact of their royal public life on their mental health. 

 The reaction from viewers has been mixed.  Given that they are able to travel the globe at taxpayers’ expense, and use the camera and thick column inches in newspapers to lecture us all not to do the same (in the interests of saving the planet), there has been lots of criticism along the lines of “hypocrites”. 

However, whether true or not, that’s not the purpose of this discussion. We can all be hypocrites on occasion.   Right now, we are much more interested in the growing custom within once “stiff upper lip” British society, of just about everyone – royal or not – wearing their hearts on their sleeves and claiming poor mental health at every turn.

The following point was made in conversation with a friend on the topic earlier today:  what, at one time, a Catholic would have offered up in silent prayer for the sake of his/her own soul, and the souls of others in spiritual danger, is now considered a matter for counselling and/or medication.  Stress, anxiety, depression, you name it, there seems to be an increased sensitivity, to the point of hyper-sensitivity in many, if not most people, for – more often than not – trivial/no good reason.  Lamentably, that includes Catholics.  Surely, Catholics should be living on a rather higher level – notwithstanding that there will be, of course, those with genuine, diagnosed, mental health illness.

Or is the above assessment a bit too hard? Harsh, even?

22 responses

  1. I must emphasise that this thread is NOT to be seen as an opportunity to attack the monarchy. It doesn’t matter whether we are monarchists, royalists or just a right royal pain – the purpose of this discussion is as stated in the introduction. Any nasty comments about the royal family will be deleted the minute I see them – but I’m not expecting to see any… kinda… This is merely a “just in case” / “don’t even think about” reminder to any closet republicans among us…

    I’m not a monarchist, myself, (although I’m very interested in them, they are part of the history of the UK and I love history, just don’t ask me for a date… cough, if you know what I mean, and I have to say I definitely prefer them to a President Johnson, Corbyn,Swinson or Sturgeon); simply put,I see this interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as a good opportunity to clarify our thinking on issues of mental health and the spiritual life.

    Mental health is very much a topic these days – it’s raised in just about every discussion/debating programme on all channels, so this is an opportunity to see how our Catholic Faith contributes (or not) to dealing with the relevant issues.

    Over to you lot!

  2. Just read your Article there Ed and your correct in a Sense But the old saying If You Haven’t Walked The Walk Etc applies very much in especially Anxiety. I have shared before with you on the stupid sayings of Islamaphobia and Homophobia. These are not Phobias as a Phobia is an Irrational Fear that Usually ( and I can only speak for myself is something that happens in Life ) as for Islamaphobia I know why I fear Islam and I know why I fear Homosexuality. As for myself especially in my 20s I do not know how many trains and buses I exited from because of Claustrophobia. This all started by being in a Severe Crish at a Football Match . I always think God Help those at the Ibrox Disaster and Hillsbourgh Disaster of not only the ones who were killed but also of the ones who can remember the Very Life being Squeezed From their Lungs but lived they like me are scarred for Life . The Human Brain of course is a Marvellous Organ but it especially will retain anything that threatens it . Of course prayer and my Catholic Faith has saved me on many occasions. I personally am Blessed and I know it because had I Died in that Crush I would not have had a clue of what Life was really about. There have been much too many God Incidences in my Life and the Prayers said to Our Blessed Lady for me were Legion.

    • FOOF,

      Of course, as I said in my introduction, there are genuine cases of mental illness and these should never be under-estimated, let alone ignored. The situations which you describe would have been horrendous for those involved and it is not surprising that they left emotional scars.

      There are, however, I would venture, cases where “poor mental health” is a euphemism for certain other things – because, in my own (albeit limited) experience, I find that those with genuine mental health problems do not use the “I’m frightfully sensitive person, please don’t hurt my feelings…” line, as a means of punishing someone who may, e.g. have inadvertently offended them. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed that particular form of bullying. On the contrary, the people I’ve met who suffer with genuine issues of poor mental health and well-being are at pains to face up to conflict, disagreement, (Brexit!) whatever, and don’t expect to be treated with kid gloves at every turn.

      I hope that clarifies my meaning, somewhat. I have every sympathy with those genuinely suffering from poor mental health. I’m just not convinced that everyone IS suffering, who claims the condition.

      • Editor,

        I couldn’t agree more with what you say. I’ve been in the position where I’ve been made to feel guilty for saying something that “upset” someone else who was “very sensitive”. I was taken aback – the person saying that obviously didn’t realise his gaffe because we’re all sensitive and he hurt me quite a lot by basically accusing me of insensitivity when I had only been expressing my opinion in a conversation.

        I think it’s become very fashionable these days to speak about our personal mental health, whereas at one time nobody did. I do think it’s better to speak to someone close if you are feeling depressed but that’s different from going on TV and telling the world, which is what so many celebrities (and now royals) are doing these days.

        I do feel sorry for those who suffer from depression so I thought I’d post a link to a website about St Dymphna who is a patron of mental health problems
        https://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/prayer-to-st-dymphna.html

      • I am of course with you 100% on that ED .Had i £1 for every time i was called a Fenian closely followed by Bstrd i would be without doubt a Millionaire. Not that i was any Saint and on many occasions I gave as good as i got as it should be . Were my feelings hurt certainly but so were the others. Only really one time when it really went OTT was on a building site in Airdrie 1969 .There were 18 of us in a Canteen and i was getting it real bad . Of course that was really the start of The Troubles in Northern Ireland and i was the only Catholic. Boy were they really getting stuck into me .Al always remember the Guy Who said enoughs enough he incidentally came from Larkhall. Forby that my only real gripe of getting my feelings hurt was when i started my apprenticeship .The moronic tradesman on my very first day that i was assigned to asked my name i told him and he said “Were i you ad pack the job in youll never make a Tradesman ” that was simply because i was a Catholic . Feelings being hurt give us a break.

        • Faith of our Fathers,

          You are so right – what men like you had to put up with a few years ago in the workplace, just for being a Catholic, is nobody’s business. I did laugh at your “Feelings being hurt, give us a break”. These days they’d say “man up”. Either way, I agree. People’s feelings are too easily hurt these days – they need to grow up and learn to not see offence in everything people say in a conversation.

  3. DR. JOHN DUNN – UPDATE…

    I’ve just received news that Dr John Dunn’s condition has declined over the last few days and “it is looking like he is approaching the finishing line” – a reference to St Paul’s expression of Christian hope: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

    Please pray very hard for Dr John at this very serious moment in his life, as – it seems – he is soon to appear before his Lord and his God.

    Jesus mercy! Mary, help!

  4. N O T I C E . . .

    Would bloggers please include prayers for one of our English bloggers, Therese, who underwent an operation last Friday and is recovering from that, now also facing the prospect of an appointment with a cardiologist – again with the possibility of surgery on the horizon.

    As you can imagine, this is a cause of some concern, so I’ve promised to post this request for your prayers, for which Therese is very grateful indeed.

    Thank you all.

  5. I will pray for both Dr John Dunn and Therese, and hope they are both comforted in their illness and, in Therese’s case, that she has good news following her operation and cardioloist’s apppointment.

  6. Yes, I think there is a case to be more aware of mental health – one’s own and others – if only because of the increasing suicide rate, particularly among males. In 2018, 6507 suicides were registered in the UK. Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men (4,903 deaths), which has been the case since the mid-1990s. The UK male suicide rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017; for females, the UK rate was 5.4 deaths per 100,000, consistent with the rates over the past 10 years. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2018registrations Bear in mind, this figure doesn’t reflect attempted suicides.

    Having said that, I am concerned that there is an over-diagnosis of clinical depression / anxiety in people who are just suffering from negative emotions within normal range (bereavement etc), and this over-diagnosis creates over-prescribing of anti-depressants and tranquilisers. There’s no doubt for some people, these medications are a lifeline, but I believe they are being given to people who don’t always need them.

    Should people discuss these sort of things? On balance, I think yes they should, as long as they don’t bang on about it endlessly, and turn it into a media ’cause celebre’.

    I’m not ashamed to say that I have had problems with anxiety/depression in the past, any more than I’m ashamed to say that I had a hernia operation years ago. Parts of the body go wrong, and they need to be dealt with. End of. No need for melodrama. I think that the problem is with male culture, and that there is a reluctance by a lot of men to come forward and say that they need help, because traditionally, it has been perceived as a sign of weakness.

    If you are Catholic and you understand the redemptive value of suffering, then of course it’s a good thing to offer up any kind of illness – but that doesn’t preclude you from seeking treatment for it.

    • Westminster Fly,

      I agree with you on making use of both offering up suffering if we are afflicted by poor mental health and also seeking treatment. It’s actually the case that when we offer up unpleasantness or anxiety, it results in a feeling of calmness deep down. I don’t suffer from a specific mental health issue but I can be a bit of a worrier and when I let myself dwell on the worry, it can spiral out of control and I come to see that I’ve made a mountain out of a molehill. I don’t think I’m unusual in that, but when I realise what I am doing, and offer a prayer for grace, calm descends. My challenge is to think of doing that sooner, LOL!

      I certainly don’t like being around ultra-sensitive people. They’re always ready to take something the wrong way, so I try to avoid the ones I know, not many, thank goodness, but a couple.

    • Suicide must be terrible for the ones left behind . My lifelong friend committed suicide we spoke about everything and i never thought that he would ever be one to do that .He had it planned and it was a complete surprise as are most of these so tragic events .

  7. I can’t respond to the correct means of addressing poor mental health, except to affirm what the Church teaches, but regarding “wearing your heart on your sleeve,” I recall some wise soul observing, some years ago, that as the practice of the Catholic Faith falls into disuse and disarray (i.e. since Vatican II), certain features of it appear among the general population in various secularized forms.

    Thus this habit of reciting one’s faults and problems in public could be seen as a type of confession, appearing as a result of the real Confession falling into disuse and abuse. I’d call it the “Oprah Winfrey phenomenon,” where one is encouraged to appear on TV and bare one’s soul, to elicit sympathy from the host and the audience. Apparently it serves some cathartic effect, though of course there is no penance and no absolution.

    So perhaps, in these cases, sympathy is the Devil’s substitute for absolution and penance….

    • I do agree with you about, for Catholics at least, the importance of the Sacrament of Confession. A while ago I found myself becoming very anxious about sins in my past: had I confessed them properly? Had I even confessed them at all? Anyway I went to Confession and poured all this out to the confessor. I remember walking out of the church into brilliant sunshine with a huge feeling of relief and gratitude to God. No GP or counsellor or listening ear of any sort could have given me that wonderful reassurance and it has stayed with me.
      Of course for some illnesses there is a need for medication or therapy but in the hard pressed NHS it is sometimes easier to throw tablets at a problem than to give the person the time they need.
      With regard to the royals, I feel they are making a big mistake by talking to the media in this way. The media simply want to sell papers and it is naive to think that giving interviews like this will help. Prince Harry and his wife would do well to leave the public eye for a bit and take time for reflection.

      My prayers too for Therese, I do hope all goes well for you.

      • Elizabeth,

        Through trial and error, I’ve found that the most effective way to make a General Confession (it sounds as though that was what you did) is to run through the 10 Commandments. This method, with questions for each Commandment, is found in the SSPX book “Christian Warfare,” and I was asked to used it the last time I went on Ignatian retreat.

  8. St Francis de Sales said “Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

    A good thought to reflect on when worry sets in.

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