I recently came across an article in Scientific American that really intrigued me. As we (fingers crossed and prayers said) go into the diminishing phase of Covid with its strange ailments, long-term effects–and trust me, I know about these–its indiscriminate taking of life, closing of churches, separating of loved ones, and alienation of those who most need socialization, I have become keenly aware of the rise in mental health issues and disorders, including in my own inner circle. It seems that the world has fallen into a deep pit of despair, and our lives have become meaningless and out of focus. We have lost the spiritual connection that is necessary to thrive.
Enter, David Rosmarin, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the McLean Hospital Spirituality & Mental Health Program. In his study of psychiatric patients throughout the pandemic, he found that prayer increased significantly in March of 2020 and continued to rise throughout the year despite the closing of houses of worship. He found this to be an extremely important find since “Spirituality has historically been dismissed by psychiatrists.” He noted that, in 2020, American mental health sank to the lowest point in recorded history with diagnoses of mental disorders increasing by 50%. The use of alcohol and drugs rose as did contemplation of suicide. YET the mental health of those patients who attended religious services, in-person or online, actually improved significantly!
Rosmarin goes on to say that studies show that nearly 60% of psychiatric patients have a desire to discuss spirituality with their psychiatrist yet are rarely, if ever, given the opportunity to do so. He says we can blame it on Freud and his characterization of religion as a mass-delusion. We see this trend in suggestions by both the American Psychological Association’s and Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for coping with the pandemic. The only near-mention of religion is the CDC’s recommendation to “connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.” The author goes on to say, “we ignore potential spiritual solutions to our mental health crisis, even when our well-being is worse than ever before.”
According to this study and another, “a belief in God is associated with significantly better treatment outcomes for acute psychiatric patients. And other laboratories have shown a connection between religious belief and the thickness of the brain’s cortex, which may help protect against depression.” He also concluded that “many nonreligious people still seek spirituality, especially in times of distress.”
Now, sit back and take all that in for a moment.
Attending a religious service on a regular basis improves your mental health. Belief in God significantly improves treatment outcomes for those in mental distress. Religious beliefs actually protect against depression, and even non-religious people seek spirituality when they are in distress.
Theologians believe we have something called a “limit experience” in which we come up against a wall–that time when we can no longer handle something. This can be true in both positive and negative situations. During those limit experiences, people tend to seek a higher being or higher meaning in their lives. Often, this leads them to increased prayer. I would imagine that most of us have reached our limit when it comes to the pandemic, so why aren’t more people being led to spirituality? Why aren’t professionals recommending that they seek a theological answer? I believe this is because society tell us that God and religion are unimportant and that we can live without them. God is a myth, and religion holds no meaning. Therefore, those who are “in the know” are eschewing religion, deliberating avoiding any contact with it.
Bishop Robert Barron says while “the cool kids are running away from church,” they’re “going to pay a price for that.” Without spirituality, they aren’t getting that which they are meant to have–the nurturing of the soul. He quotes Aquinas, who said “The soul is in the body not as contained by it but as containing it.” The spiritual envelops every aspect of life. To ignore it, affects one at eevery level of being.
When I think about the most religious people I know, they are typically able to handle more, to accept more, and to be grateful more. They see beyond the here and now and understand that these trials are meant to strengthen us and to lead us toward something better.
In just a couple days, I will be exactly six years out from the day I stepped off the plane in the Holy Land. I arrived in Israel with my husband, surrounded by strangers. How quickly that changed. We became a family, sharing an unbreakable bond that still ties many of us together today. Being a part of this new family, I have witnessed holy love that can only come from a place of deep faith. I have seen sorrow turn into joy in a way that it only can when faith is present. I have listened to stories of amazing resilience and acceptance amid life’s harshest battles that comes from a deep, deep spiritual faith and belief that there is a better world waiting for us.
Because of faith, I have witnessed miracles. I have seen how faith in God and all that He promises us can heal in a way that medical science cannot. I watched one of my closest friends battle stage 4 ovarian cancer and beat it. When she was declared cancer-free after two years of treatments, her doctor revealed that upon meeting Alix for the first time, she knew she was looking at someone who would not live past three months. Yet, Alix’s strong faith kept her positive, always believing that God’s plans for her on this earth were not yet fulfilled.
We are all searching for something. we have a great need to find meaning in our lives. So many believe that this meaning can be found through popularity, in a bottle or pill, or within sexual relationships. This study seems to suggest that people are looking for meaning and purpose and a reason to go on in all the wrong places. They are searching for tangible cures for intangible ailments. Perhaps it isn’t one’s mind or body that needs to be cured but one’s soul. We need to be seeking the spiritual.
The word for healer in Greek is Soter. From this word, we get the Latin, Salvatore, and the English, Savior. Jesus, the Divine Physician, is not just our Savior, He is our Healer. Without Him, we cannot be entirely healthy. We are missing the most important element of being healthy. We are missing a true Soter in our lives.
One of St. Augustine’s most famous admissions is, “My soul is restless until it rests in you, oh Lord.” Until we find God and give our lives over to Him, we cannot have rest of body or mind. Our health will always suffer.
Come see Amy on one of these dates:
March 9, 2022 – Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Wayne, PA 6:00PM – Lenten Reflection
April 9, 2022 – First Landing Wine and Arts Festival, St. Clement’s Island Museum, Clements, MD
June 4, 2022 – Christ Church 350th Anniversary Fair, Broomes Island, MD
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021).