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TWO SIDES OF A COIN – THE INTERCONNECTIVITY OF SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH



Introduction

In the past, lay mental health care providers and their professional counterparts see spirituality or religion as mental illness, nothing to reckon with but in recent times, mental health treatments are never complete without inculcating a patient’s spirituality into the treatment plan.

Like the two sides of a coin, or the two wings of a bird without which it cannot fly, spiritual and mental health go hand in hand and one can't do without the other. The truth is, one can’t be sick and the other is healthy.

That is why, in this article, we would be articulating the connection between spiritual and mental health.


Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Mental Health

3.0 Spirituality and Spiritual Health

4.0 The Role of Spirituality in Attaining Mental Health

5.0 Stages of Spiritual Intervention in Mental Health Treatment

6.0 Recommendation and Conclusion

7.0 References


Mental Health

World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Mental Health is a state of psychological wellbeing. It is said to be attained when a person has no mental illness but rather possesses a well-adjusted personality that makes effective and positive contribution to community life.


The world we live in is more spiritual than physical. There is more to the world than meets the eye and between the physical and the spiritual realm, there is a connecting tool referred to as the mind. The mind which is in charge of the mental realm is the seat of feelings, thoughts and emotions. Since you are what you think, your mind is that tool that determines who you are and what you ultimately become.


You can’t be thinking limiting thoughts for instance and expect to make progress. You can't think defeat and emerge victorious, it's impossible. You are what you think and let me say emphatically that every battle you’ll ever fight for your home, finances, kids, to win over a sickness or destructive habit will either be won or lost first in your mind. Your mind is the battlefield where all battles are either won or lost before they are actually fought in the physical.


Don’t be deceived the mind (mental realm) and the spirit (spiritual realm) are intertwined. The health of one is the health of the other while the sickness of one translates to the sickness of the other. The state of one impacts either positively or negatively on the other.


If you’re mentally immature for instance, it will definitely affect your spiritual life. In my experience as a clinical mental health counselor who is also a Christian counselor over the years, I have discovered that many spiritual people do not see the need for mental health care and lay mental health care providers are also limited in their understanding of how adding spirituality to their overall treatment package would enhance their service delivery and benefit their clients.


Spirituality and Spiritual Health

Koenig et al., defined spirituality as a personal quest to understand aspects of life, its meaning and the relationship with The Sacred, which may or may not involve religious practices or formation of religious groups.


Spirituality has been defined as a relationship or connection with a higher power. Verghese 2008 also see spirituality as belief and obedience to an all-powerful force called God, who controls the universe and the destiny of man. Although, spirituality cuts across language, culture and societal barriers, it is a personal walk that's pretty much unique to each individual.


In dealing with mental health in the past, experts have always avoided the subject of spirituality and spiritual health/religion but in recent times the benefits of spiritual health on the mental state of an individual has been played up. Mental health experts now insist on patients’ spirituality in order to achieve mental health. Furthermore, there are increasing evidences and awareness that shows a strong correlation between mental and spiritual health

Vallas 2015, opined that the inclusion of spirituality in mental Wellness treatment has immense benefits


The Role of Spirituality in Achieving Mental Health

According to John Turbott 1996, rapprochement between religion and psychiatry is essential for psychiatric practice to be effective.


On the surface mental and spiritual health appear not to have anything in common, but in recent times, there has been an increasing awareness of the benefits of spirituality in achieving mental health. For excellent and outstanding health care providers, the attainment of health and wellness for their clients goes way beyond just relieving pains and providing cure. It is rather healing the client. This is because spirituality and spiritual health care goes beyond the healing of a disease to the healing of the person.


Although Sigmund Freud Saw spirituality as a neurosis and illusion, spirituality is important in the course of seeking mental health. it is crucial directly and indirectly in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses (Verghese, 2008).


Recent studies have shown that religion and spirituality help people in coping with life stresses. According to Sao Paulo 2014, spirituality is a potential resource in relation to mental health and it’s a coping mechanism for stressful experiences. Furthermore, in Sao Paulo’s finding in his research on Hemodialysis (HD) patients in 2014, poor mental health was found to be strongly linked with poor spiritual health. Poor mental health and the presence of psychological stress, sleep disturbance and psychosomatic complaints were associated with lower existential and spiritual wellbeing. Thus, without mincing words, spiritual well being is a crucial factor to consider in determining a person’s mental health.


Spirituality has been found to keep people away from destructive habits that can promote mental illnesses. People who are spiritual or religious are seen to have harmonious marital relationships, avoid smoking, drinking and substance abuse. Spirituality promotes competence, psychosocial adjustments and integration into community life. It has also been proven that spiritual people are never withdrawn or depressed which is always the starting point for mental illnesses.

Spirituality is central to lives and mental health interventions. basically there are four levels of spirituality integration into mental health attainment


Stages of Spiritual Intervention in Mental Health Treatment


Stage One - Dissonance

At this level, spiritual integration into mental cure is almost zero. The spiritual dimension is neglected by mental health care providers because the 19th century positivist worldview sees the material or physical as the only world there is. Thus, there was no provision for the metaphysical or spiritual world. As such, when a client is spiritual he or she is seen as delusional.

Spiritual experiences were treated as anomalous activities of the mind or brain. Summarily, spirituality is usually not initiated by the mental health care provider. However, it is acknowledged and permitted without criticisms in clients’ extreme health conditions.


Stage Two - Opening up

This is an improvement on the first stage of spiritual integration into mental cure. At this stage, the mental health care provider now has a personal paradigm shift. He or she now sees spirituality and mental health as mutually beneficial to each other.

This paradigm shift make Care Givers relinquish their positivism and denial of the spirit world. In this view of spiritual intervention in mental health care, a spiritual reality is therefore considered legitimate and could be explored in mental health care if and when any client brings up such issues during consultation


Stage Three - Contact with Caution

At this stage the relationship between valid and invalid knowledge are broken down and totally non-existent. According to Birnbaum et. al. 2008, in this phase of incorporating spirituality into therapy, clinicians acknowledge the existence of a spiritual realm and recognize and utilize the capacity to know more about the self and the universe through connection to higher levels of consciousness. They tend, however, to avoid actively and openly employing spiritual techniques in therapy sessions, and they use them only sporadically and with caution.


Stage Four – Engaged

at this stage spirituality is fully integrated into mental health treatments and interventions and this is the level every lay mental health care provider and Christian counselor should come to.

When experts get to this level in their clinical practice they do not deny the existence of a higher power rather they help clients harness their connection to higher power so fast track their healing


Recommendations and Conclusions

The awareness of religious beliefs and the importance of spirituality in achieving mental health is not enough. As a mental health care provider, you must seek ways to incorporate this into your healing intervention and treatment process.


References

1. Turbott J. Religion, spirituality and psychiatry: conceptual, cultural and personal challenges. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 1996;30:720–27. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

2. Koenig HG, George LK, Peterson BL. Religiosity and remission of depression in medically ill older patients. Am J Psychiatry. 1998;155(4):536-42

3. Verghese A, John JK, Rajkumar S, Richard J, Sethi BB, Trivedi JK. Factors associated with the course and outcome of schizophrenia: results of a five year follow up study. Br J Psychiatry. 1990;32:211–16. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

4. Verghese A. Spirituality and Mental Health. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 2008 Oct – Dec. Vol 50 issue 4: pp 233-237

5. Birnbaum L, Birnbaum A, Ofra M. the Role of Spirituality in Mental Health Interventions: A Developmental Perspective. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, January 2008.

6. Sao Paulo 2014 Med. J. vol.132 no.1., Relationship between mental health and spiritual wellbeing among hemodialysis patients: a correlation study; https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-3180.2014.1321606

7. Vallas M. The Meeting of Spirituality and Mental Health. www.psychiatryadvisor.com June 3, 2015.