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Pope says Church can assist depression sufferers

Pope John Paul II has called depression a "spiritual trial", and suggested that those suffering from the illness should receive special support from their priests and parish communities.

"The illness frequently is accompanied by an existential and spiritual crisis that causes one to no longer see the value of living," the pope told a Pontifical Council for Health Care conference on depression.

Pope John Paul, addressing conference participants on Friday, thanked medical and mental health professionals who dedicate their lives to helping those suffering from depression, and he offered special prayers for the patients' family members, who suffer along with them.

The pope said growing rates of depression around the world are a cause for alarm and indicate that "human, psychological and spiritual fragility" are increased by societal factors, including consumerism and the idea that every desire could and should be satisfied immediately.

He said that the Church should fight the spread of depression by helping people to rediscover their spiritual lives. Church personnel could accompany them in order that they might find "points of reference" to guide them in their relations with others.

The Pope stressed the importance of family, school, and parish in building up a mature spiritual and moral outlook. But reserved his greatest emphasis for prayer, meditation, and reflection as ways to ensure a balanced outlook.

Pope says people with depression need special support (Catholic News Service)
Vatican seminar sees society's role in spread of clinical depression (Catholic World News)

Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care
Health: Depression Knocks at Door of Religious Communities (Vidimus Dominum 17/11/03)

18 Nov 2003