Parish Health Apostolate in Southern Africa to Help Raise Awareness of Mental Issues

Credit: CATHCA

An envisaged Catholic Parish health apostolate aims to raise awareness about mental issues, an official of the entity behind the initiative has said.

In a recent interview with ACI Africa, the skills development Coordinator of the Catholic Health Care Association of Southern Africa (CATHCA) said that through the envisaged Catholic Parish initiative, stigma and discrimination against those living with mental illness will be reduced and the people of God will be equipped with the necessary tools to address the “lack of understanding” about mental illness.

“There is lack of understanding, which leads to fear, to stigmatization and discrimination towards people living with health illness,” Dr. Shula Melese told ACI Africa during the February 17 interview.

Dr. Melese added, “The objective of the ministry is to increase awareness of mental health issues, reduce stigma and discrimination against those living with mental illness, to provide spiritual accompaniment and support for people living with mental illness, and to welcome people with mental illness into the sacramental and communal life of the Church.”

To realize the objectives of the initiative, he said, facilitators will be involved in “training and mentoring the Mental Health Ministry parish teams in areas of mental health self-care and psycho-social support through spiritual and pastoral guidance.”


The initiative is to be “spearheaded by CATHCA and expert stakeholders”, the Coordinator of the Catholic Church’s associate body for health in South Botswana, Eswatini, and South Africa said, adding that two Parishes in the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg were identified for the launch of the apostolate. 

“In collaboration with CATHCA, two Catholic Parishes in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, namely All Saints in Ennerdale and Our Lady of Mercy in Emdeni will embark on the implementation of Parish Mental Health Ministry” Dr. Melese said, adding “on 20th February 2022 the Parish of Our Lady of Mercy will officially launch this ministry in the Parish and will commission the team.”

According to CATHCA, the one-year pilot project that is expected to run from January to December this year is being realized in partnership with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers.

Dr. Melese who has been working with CATHCA for the last six years said the mental health apostolate is meant to be an integral part of the Parish activities and is designed to reach out to the communities of Emdeni, Ennerdale and the neighborhoods. 

According to World Health Organization (WHO), despite progress in some countries, people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, and stigma. 

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While many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at relatively low cost, the gap between people needing care and those with access to care remains substantial, WHO has noted, adding that effective treatment coverage remains extremely low and that increased investment is required on all fronts.

“CATHCA will train members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the heads of sodalities, who together with the trained mental health ministry Parish teams will work together with community collaborators and public speakers in creating awareness campaigns” Dr Melese told ACI Africa February 17.

He added, “Parish-based support groups can raise awareness by making use of brochures, flyers, digital resources and other platforms such as the homilies at Sunday Mass, sodality gatherings, days of reflection, and retreats to increase mental health awareness.”

Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.