The role of faith in mental health

Elizabeth Benson-Stott, Dagmar Janecek-Ceramidas

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review

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Abstract

The positive role of faith in mental health and illness recovery is common as observed in the recent tsunami and Twin Towers disasters (Pargament, 2007). Although modern medicine can treat and often conquer disease, faith and the human spirit can not be separated from physical medicine (Berry, 1995; Frankl, 1984; Swinton, 2001) suggesting that individual faith must become an integral component of the care process. In a meta-analysis of studies into faith and mental health before the year 2000, 478 of 724 studies (66%) found positive effects of faith on mental health. Between the years of 2000-2005 an additional 5187 articles relating to the effects of religion on mental health have been published (Koenig, 2005). These studies have found that people who practice a faith have less heart disease, lower blood pressure, less suicidal attempts, faster recovery from illness, possibly greater longevity; increased resilience against life stresses, improved social supports, healthier lifestyles, lower anxiety and greater optimism.This paper will discuss two separate Australian research projects illustrating how faith protects against suicide and self-harm. Both studies also show the relationship of faith to resilience, well-being and improved life satisfaction. The first study showed the importance of faith for aboriginal people with mental health issues. This research suggests the need for greater understanding of the relationship between cultural and religious characteristics and adaptation to consequences in the context of mental health intervention. The second study examined the experiences and outcomes of depression among a group of Christian, community dwelling elders. This study showed the importance and protectiveness of faith for older people.The determinants in this paper are social participation and freedom from discrimination, as many health care settings disallow the discussion of faith and religion. The paper meets methodologies two and three by direreporting on proven mental health prevention and promotion activities achieved through coalition building across diverse sectors and settings. The charter recommendations of this paper are that 1. individual's faith is recognised as a personally important aspect of one's health and well-being;2. health professionals and other service providers be encouraged to discuss an individual's faith and its role in their health and well-being, and3. coalitions and alliances be built with faith communities and churches as part of interventions to recognises individual faith beliefs and practices.4. There is a need for mental health professionals to distinguish between spiritual crisis and mental illness, and have the ability to explore areas of overlap and difference between the two.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrom Margins to Mainstream
Place of Publicationn/a
PublisherWFMH
Pages29-30
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event5th World Conference on the Promotion of Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental and Behavioural Disorders - Melbourne Convention Centre, Victoria, Australia, Australia
Duration: 10 Sep 200812 Sep 2008

Conference

Conference5th World Conference on the Promotion of Mental Health and the Prevention of Mental and Behavioural Disorders
CountryAustralia
Period10/09/0812/09/08

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