This winter, take time to care for your mental health.
January is a notoriously tough month, what with the eviction of the Christmas decorations and the bitterly cold, dark days that seem to slog on with no end in sight. If this time of year is hard for you, or if you’re in the midst of handling personal challenges that are difficult to cope with, you may greatly benefit from a new initiative that examines mental health issues from a Catholic perspective.
Ave Explores is a multimedia series from Ave Maria Press that dives deeply into specific topics and offers these resources to anyone interested. Their newest topic is mental health:
Clinical experts and others who have struggled with mental health issues will help everyday Catholics better understand grief, addiction, loss, spiritual direction vs. therapy, depression, suicide, and forgiveness from a Catholic perspective. We also offer a list of resources where you can seek more information.
Katie Prejean McGrady, a Catholic writer and speaker who hosts the Ave Explores podcast, explained, “For each series, we develop articles, podcasts, and videos with leading Catholic authors and speakers and distribute it entirely for free, hoping to help everyday Catholics live their faith every day. It’s a ministry of Ave Maria Press, and a way to give back and create good things for people who love Jesus.”
Ave Explores has created other educational series in the past, such as a course on the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was very well received with over 3,500 participants. “Each series we create is focused on a different topic, so as people are or are not interested in that topic, they can choose to unsubscribe or re-subscribe,” McGrady said. “It’s kind of a ‘choose your own adventure’ participation.”
Tackling the topic of mental health was especially timely in January. McGrady said, “This time of year, post-holidays and as the new year kicks off, so many people are struggling with so much. We wanted to talk about the mental health crisis, and the challenges people face, in a very honest way, and present hope and light in the midst of darkness.”
Mental health can at times be misunderstood in the Catholic world, such as when confusion arises about the differences between therapy and confession, so this conversation is timely and seems like a fantastic resource.
McGrady explained what inspired her to focus the series on mental health:
When I started going to therapy, for anxiety and situational depression, one of the first things my therapist told me was “Jesus cares about your mental health.” I’d never thought about that before. Obviously Jesus cares about us, and he cares about our health, but it had never really occurred to me that Jesus Christ could love me in the midst of a mental health struggle and deeply desired for me to be well. It was like someone flipped on a lightbulb and reminded me that Jesus longs for me to be healed, and that dealing with and taking care of my mental health is something that he desires for me to do.
This powerful sense of healing and the spiritual fruit of caring for one’s mental health is something McGrady hopes other Catholics can find through the new series. “Every piece written, video recorded, and podcast produced takes a look at the ways we can walk through the valley of mental health struggles and find hope and healing, and really showcases how Jesus loves us in the midst of that, and walks with us,” she said. “That’s the goal here, and the hope: to help everyday faithful Catholics find hope and healing, which Jesus cares so much about.”
The planned topics and content for the four-week series include the following:
- Week 1 focuses on why we need to talk about mental health issues. Experts include Dr. Robert J. Wicks, Roy Petifils, and Gary Zimak.
- Week 2 looks at faith and mental health with Deacon Ed Schoener, Allison Ricciardi, Fr. Rob Galea, Tommy Tighe, and Roy Petitfils.
- Week 3 considers addiction and grief with Scott Weeman, Mary Lenaburg, and Dr. Greg Popcak. Look for a social media exclusive on infertility by Carmen Santamaría later in the week.
- Week 4 will wrap up the series with healing and forgiveness with Bob Schuchts, Sr. Miriam James Heidland, and Fr. John Burns.
Besides examining traditional aspects of mental health, the series takes a specifically Catholic approach and discusses finding peace through spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, and daily Mass.
It can take courage to seek out help with your mental health, but taking the necessary steps to find healing is a gift you can give to your family and community. Just as you would not walk around with a broken leg and not go see a doctor, you don’t want to walk around struggling with depression or anxiety or other challenges and not see a mental health professional.
Ave Explores is a great resource for learning about mental health and finding healing, but even if you choose not to subscribe, try to find ways to safeguard your mental health this winter. Whether it’s getting together with friends, making a therapy appointment, getting enough rest and exercise, or simply spending time with Christ in Adoration, make time for whatever refreshes you and brings you peace. You are worth it.
The Ave Explores podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play Music. You can sign up for limited-time, weekly emails with this series of Ave Explores content at https://www.avemariapress.com/aveexplores-mentalhealth/.