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Does religion affect mental health?

Maybeth Terisma- Saint John Vianney Youth Minister

What is your role as a mental health advocate in the church?

As a youth minister, I try to do a blend of mental, spiritual, and physical health. Its all connected in a holistic approach. That’s why we have mental health nights at the church for teens. Not to mention I try to show the links between our spiritual life and incorporating that in our everyday life. For example, prayers have been used for years to help with anxiety, depression, and things in that nature. Its only now that we are really starting to see these links. So, I feel that my role in mental health is to encourage that type of health.

How do you feel religion affects mental health?

Unfortunately, and fortunately religion most definitely does affect mental health. Religion can uplift, stabilize, help lead us, guide us, and bring so much light into our life’s. Depending on who is throwing it around, it can also do the opposite. It typically misused by people who crave power. With this it’s often harder for youth to ask questions in religion especially when it might be uncomfortable. However, do fully understand the trajectory of your own religion you need to ask questions so you can better understand and explore.

What are the mental health benefits of spirituality?

I think diving into the various prayer style and traditions and seeing what fits gives off numerous benefits. Having discipline in life is important. I don’t go into prayer time everyday excited to pray, but it teaches me a unique style of motivation and discipline. Its adding a drop into my spiritual bucket so when things go bad, I have something to lean on. Entering the thought process that my spiritual health helps my mental and physical, really plays a role in bettering myself in general. You need to find what feeds your soul and go from there.

How do you suggest teens practice mindfulness whether that be through religion, or in general?

There is so many books about this, and typically it’s the answer that none of us like. A lot of the times its just about making a commitment. Whether that be journaling, brushing your teeth, praying, you can loop it around something you do daily so that you do it. Similar how you commit to other things in life, commit to 10 minutes of mindfulness a day. When we want to develop ourselves spiritually, we need to make a discipline out of it to a certain degree. On of the first steps to that would be going to church once or twice a week.

How do you get into religion if its something you have never experienced, but want to do to better your mental health?

Find a community that is welcoming to you. I would love to say that our church is perfect for everybody, but its not. I think God is big enough that it can be in a lot of different places and a lot of different faiths. Connecting with people is important because you want t to feel at home in your given group. So, join a group, help out, develop those relationships, and be open to improve that prayer practice in that community. In that way its not just a spiritual support, but also a communal mental health support.

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