Vlad Mamaraldo spoke about “Peace of Mind of Mental Wellness” at St. Benedict Parish in Etobicoke. Photo courtesy of Kevin Tablizo

The spiritual battle of treating your mental health

By  Bernadette Timson, Youth Speak News
  • September 25, 2019

It’s no coincidence that the head is the first part of the body to be anointed or blessed when receiving sacraments.

“The focus is on the mind and it’s transformation, then the hands,” said Vlad Mamaradlo, a lay pastoral associate at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Mississauga, Ont., using the Anointing of the Sick as an example.  “This is because the head is the focal point, where activity and action can take place. The same can be found similarly with Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Confession; that the priest or bishop anoints or blesses the head first.”

The health of the human mind and the role of faith was the topic of a Sept. 4 presentation at St. Benedict Parish in Etobicoke in a event held by Spiritus Vitae, a young adult ministry of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Mamaradlo, who holds a Master of Divinity from the University of Toronto, spoke about “Peace of Mind and Mental Wellness,” an appropriate subject as Canada heads toward Mental Health Week Oct. 6-12.

While anointing is not a substitute for professional therapy to treat mental illness, Mamaradlo does see faith as having a role in mental health.  In his presentation, he introduced the concept of St. Paul’s “Theology of the Mind.” While many have heard of St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the former is a relatively new concept to Catholics. 

“The term ‘theology of the mind’ is more or less something I came up with,” said Mamaradlo. “It focuses on what St. Paul would have to say about mental wellness, but doesn’t frame it from a psychological or clinical perspective. Rather, it talks about how do we deal with what it means to be mentally well as disciples of Jesus. 

“This is an issue that is commonly dealt with by young people. Mental wellness is the mark of the Holy Spirit, just as there are fruits of the Holy Spirit, like love, joy and peace. But mental wellness can be defined as a level of deep-seated peace in spite of stress and suffering.” 

The key to peace is to ask oneself if his or her thoughts are accurately based, he said. This employs a method of treatment, called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), used by mental health care professionals for disorders such as anxiety, depression and addictions. 

“Found in the Baltimore Catechism (one of the predecessors to the YOUCAT) is the teaching that our thoughts affect our behaviour,” said Mamaradlo. “It states that because of our fall from grace due to original sin, when the mind is confused, it can lead to disordered feelings and can result with a weakened will. Similar in CBT, a situation leading to a thought, where the situation is interpreted in the mind, leading to an emotion occurring because of the thought, concluding with a behaviour or an action in response to the emotion. 

“What’s more interesting is that CBT was discovered after the catechism was set. This is another example of how science and faith are not opposed to each other but can often merge together.”

Nerissa Passanha, a Masters of Social Work student who attended Mamaradlo’s presentation, emphasized that it is crucial for young adults to understand that battles with mental health require professional support. 

“Just like when we visit doctors when we are physically unwell, we need to be able to seek help when we are mentally or emotionally unwell,” said Passanha. 

(Timson, 21, is finishing her Event Management studies at Humber College in Etobicoke, Ont.)

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