Mental Depression to Be Focus of Conference at Vatican

Seeking an Answer That Goes Beyond Medicines

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A three-day Vatican conference starting Thursday will focus on mental depression, a problem that plagues 340 million people and can lead to suicide.



The conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers aims to "shed light on one of the most serious illnesses of our day," Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán told a press conference today. He is president of the pontifical council.

Noting that depression is described as a principal "killer" of our time, the cardinal said the reason is that "postmodern culture is a culture devoid of values, based on well-being and pleasure, where the supreme goal is economic gain."

"The World Health Organization speaks of medicines for its treatment," the cardinal told Vatican Radio. "We maintain that the medicines are good, but that, in the final analysis, depression is nothing other than fear."

"Postmodern man has become fearful," he continued. And one of the most important causes of depression, "if not the most important … is the absence of values and fear of death."

Thus, "we must give a unique answer which in no way denies the validity of medicines, but goes beyond these," the cardinal said.

"We don't have an invention or a theory, but a historical fact, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And we affirm that the only way to defeat death is our resurrection in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit," he explained.

Hence, in living the resurrection of the Lord "lies the greatest, most effective remedy against depression," contended the cardinal.

Speakers will include Cardinal Lozano Barragán; Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes; Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Bombay, India. Psychiatrists, professors and bishops will be among those attending the event.

At today's press conference, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls, himself a psychiatrist, pointed out the "vulnerability that some persons have, given certain styles of life."

"The doctor can analyze this in the patient, but it is not just cured with Prozac, serotonin or purely biological elements," he said.

On Friday, John Paul II is scheduled to receive in audience the 600 or so participants in the conference.