The Observer—Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford
Publication date: February 3, 2006
By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge
Director, Respect Life Office
World Day of the Sick — instituted by John Paul II on May 13, 1992—is an annual event held each February 11th, the commemoration of the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes. Designed to be a day “devoted to the care of the suffering,” World Day of the Sick is a special time set aside for reflection on the Christian meaning of suffering which, as we know so well, can take many forms.
Pope Benedict XVI announced that the 14th World Day of the Sick will focus on mental illness and human dignity. The Holy Father stressed that he wanted to call “the attention of public opinion to the problems connected with mental disturbance, which by now afflicts one-fifth of mankind and constitutes a real and authentic social health care emergency.”
In making his announcement, the Pope also noted that “the experts recognize that at the origin of new forms of mental disturbance we may also find the negative impact of the crisis of moral values.” As John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Doloris (The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), “The vastness and the many forms of moral suffering are certainly no less in number than the forms of physical suffering. But at the same time, moral suffering seems as it were less identified and less reachable by therapy.”
Of the many conditions that can beset humans, moral suffering and mental illness or psychological disturbances are the least understood. Part of the problem is the invisible nature of such afflictions. When we see someone who is in a wheelchair, or who is blind or deaf, we recognize that the person has a disability. This is not the case with those who suffer from one of the many varieties of mental illness or mental health problems. Typically, we have no way of knowing they are suffering—unless they tell us.
As women suffering the aftermath of abortion continue to come forward in greater numbers to tell their stories, we have become increasingly aware of the suffering and mental health problems associated with abortion. Many women suffering from abortion are experiencing moral suffering and some may have developed severe psychological disturbances. Their problems can range from mild depression to severe psychosis.
While most abortion apologists continue to deny that women experience any significant psychological problems after abortion, there are a number of studies demonstrating the opposite. These studies coupled with reports from an ever increasing number of women seeking counseling after abortion, clearly demonstrate a strong link between and abortion and subsequent meNtal problems including, but not limited to, clinical depression, anxiety, suicide, substance abuse, and “post-traumatic stress disorder.” (The American Psychiatric Association lists abortion as “a life event which can produce post-traumatic stress disorder.”)
Do you know someone who is suffering the aftermath of abortion? If so, I hope you pray for them and take the time to listen and then encourage them to seek help. Be a Good Samaritan. As John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Doloris, “Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. This stopping does not mean curiosity but availability. It is like the opening of a certain interior disposition of the heart, which also has an emotional expression of its own.”
If you are one of the many women who have had an abortion and are suffering in silence, it is time to get whatever support or help you need. Don’t wait. Be assured, there is hope, help, and healing for you in the Church. Please speak with a priest or call Project Rachel at 1.800.5WECARE so that you may be referred to someone who can help. You may or may not need professional therapy, but know that we have a loving God who calls you to be reconciled and healed.
Please reach out and receive the loving, healing touch of our Lord, Jesus Christ.