Stigma surrounds Schizophrenia

By Father Dennis Meinen
View from the Scooter

Do you know someone who has Schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.

Contrary to popular belief, Schizophrenia isn’t a split personality or multiple personality. The word “schizophrenia” does mean “split mind,” but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.

The patron saint of those with mental illness is St. Dymphna. She was 14 when her mother died. Her father Damon is said to have been afflicted with a mental illness, brought on by his grief. He sent messengers throughout his town and other lands to find some woman of noble birth, resembling his wife, who would be willing to marry him.

When none could be found, his evil advisers told him to marry his own daughter. Dymphna fled from her castle together with St. Gerebran, her confessor and two other friends. Damon found them in Belgium. He gave orders that the priest’s head be cut off. Then, Damon tried to persuade his daughter to return to Ireland with him. When she refused, he drew his sword and struck off her head. She was then only 15 years of age.

Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom in defense of her purity about the year 620. She is the patron of those suffering from nervous and mental afflictions. Many miracles have taken place at her shrine, built on the spot where she was buried in Gheel, Belgium.

Stigma against people with mental disorders has been around even longer than the Catholic Church. Blame for being ill or behaving oddly has accompanied that stigma.

Pope Francis’ message is clear: as people and institutions, we need to be welcoming, not judging; not defer to the dogma of powerful, hierarchical authorities (“Excessive centralization… complicates,” he said); serve those in need, the wounded; and practice what we preach.

Here are two prayers that might bring comfort.

Prayer to St. Dymphna

Hear us, O God, Our Savior, as we honor St. Dymphna, patron of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness. Help us to be inspired by her example and comforted by her merciful help. Amen.

Prayer to St. Dymphna

Good St. Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be. St. Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

     Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix; and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.

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