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Not long after Rich Salazar moved to De Kalb, Illinois from California, he found himself knocking at the door of St. The then-college student had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was in crisis mode.Unable to reach his mother at work and not knowing where else to go, Salazar told himself, "I have to go to church." Father William Schwartz answered his knocks and, although the parish was closed for the evening, invited him in. The priest called his mother and told him he could stay at the church as long as he needed. I told him the church has never let me down." That's when Schwartz responded, "Someday it might." For many Catholics experiencing mental illness and their families, the church can be both a place of welcome and alienation."NAMI recognized that churches are a natural ally," he says. Churches understand justice." NAMI has since extended its faith-based support to include working with interfaith groups and incorporating a website,, to help users connect with religious groups.While groups like NAMI grew in the 1980s and '90s, the Catholic Church still lagged behind in terms of a mental illness network.The Catechism of the Catholic Church still describes it as "gravely contrary to the just love of self," but since the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law, suicide is no longer listed as a reason to prevent a Catholic burial."Suicide is not a sin anymore," says Kehoe, who in her recent book, (Jossey-Bass, 2009), talks about working with suicidal patients.A 2009 Baylor survey of Texas Baptists found depression and anxiety were the maladies most often dismissed by clergy.Repeated studies have also shown that it is clergy to whom people most frequently turn when they are first in mental distress, not mental health professionals.

His daughter was diagnosed with a serious mental illness 20 years ago, and he and his wife first sought resources through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a leading nonprofit organization that was founded in 1972."I don't think that the church is ready for that yet." Recent Baylor University studies reflect this attitude.A 2008 study showed that almost one-third of a group of 293 Christians who approached their various churches about mental illness were told that they or their family member didn't really have a mental disorder.Welch describes a "synergy between religion and psychology" where there is an awareness of the biological, social, psychological, and spiritual aspects of a person suffering mental illness.In Kehoe's eyes, suicide is the biggest area of attitude change for the Catholic Church.

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