Holy See Urges Attention to Causes of Mental Illness

Cardinal Lozano Barragán's Message for a World Day

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- It's urgent to promote healthy lifestyles that reflect a culture of values, to avoid the pathologies and mental disorders that feed current problems, says a Vatican official.



To that end, prevention as well as intervention is necessary, states Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, in his message sent for World Day of Mental Health.

The World Day, which will be observed Monday, has the theme "Mental and Physical Health Throughout Life."

The cardinal's message is an expression of "the acute attention with which the Church follows the problems of fitness and health," as the latter "is fundamental for all to ensure peace and justice among peoples."

The health of individuals, families, communities and nations, the Vatican official acknowledges, "is determined by environmental, biological, socio-cultural, spiritual, economic and political variables."

In the realm of mental health this assumes "a particular relevance," given the 450 million people who have mental, neurological or behavior problems, and the 873,000 who commit suicide every year, according to World Health Organization data quoted by Cardinal Lozano Barragán.

Although "mental illness is a real socio-health emergency," in more than 25% of health centers patients do not have access to essential psychiatric medication and 70% of the population has less than one psychiatrist for every 100,000 people, the cardinal notes.

He contends that "mental problems more often strike underprivileged peoples from the intellectual, cultural and economic point of view," as "millions of creatures are obliged to bear in their bodies and minds the consequences of a lack of food, […] armed conflicts [… and] the succession of gigantic natural disasters with their heavy burden of morbidity and mortality."

Therefore, "there is urgent need for strong preventive action against mental illnesses," he exhorts. "The crisis of values and the affirmation of non-values that increase loneliness, destroy the traditional forms of social cohesion, split aggregate groups, in particular on the cultural plane, and discredit the worthy institution of the family."