January 20, 2021
Writer: Jerwin Regala
Editor: K Ballesteros
Graphics: Jacklyn Moral and Ian Stephen Velez
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Documentation: Tobey Fhar Isaac Calayo
One of the most sensitive topics in mental health awareness and advocating for it is its connection with cultural backgrounds like faith, religion, and spirituality. Living in a deeply-rooted religious country, Filipinos often respond with “kulang ka lang sa dasal” to issues including anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. However, we also cannot deny that our faith can be beneficial for our mental health.
Religion and spirituality are two different things: the former is an organized, community-based system of beliefs, while the latter refers to an individual’s personal beliefs and values. There is spirituality in religion, but spirituality does not necessitate a religion. They are both rooted in trying to understand the meaning of life. In some cases, a relationship with higher power may influence that meaning.
How do religion and spirituality affect our mental health? Luna Greenstein of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the United States listed the positive impact of religion and spirituality.
Mental Health Benefits of Religion
Religion gives people something to believe in, it provides a sense of structure, and it typically offers a common ground through which a group of people connects with similar beliefs. These facets can have a large positive impact on mental health. Here are some of religion’s main mental health benefits:
- Initiates social connections with other members
- Creates a sense of belonging to a group
- Offers trustworthy and safe social engagement
- Helps people to cope with difficult life situations (i.e. a ceremony for the loss of a loved one)
- Allows for time to rest as well as holidays and other special times of the year
- Provides guidelines to live by (i.e. the importance of doing the right thing)
- Teaches compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude
- Identifies life lessons, even from challenging situations
Mental Health Benefits of Spirituality
Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves; it helps a person look within and understand themselves while figuring out f how they fit into the rest of the world. Spirituality also incorporates healthy practices for the mind and body, which positively influences mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are some of those benefits:
- Enhances a person’s sense of self and empowerment through the choice to decide what their practice looks like
- Focuses on an individual’s connection to what they believe in and their own personal growth
- Accepts any person, whether they are part of a religion or not
- Encourages meditation and self-reflection
- Leads to a meaningful life philosophy (i.e. feeling connected to others, nature or art)
- Prompts expression in any form such as art, poetry, myth or religious practice
3. Unity with Surroundings
- Renews a sense of belonging in the world
- Inspires appreciation and awareness of a person’s interaction with the physical environment
Religion and spirituality can help improve our mental health and promote mental health awareness provided that they are presented in supportive ways.
- What does your religion or spiritual practice teach about mental health awareness?
- How does religion or your spirituality affect your mental health?
- How would you like mental health awareness to be perceived by members of your faith?
 Greenstein, L. (2016). The Mental Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality. Retrieved January 12, 2021, from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Mental-Health-Benefits-of-Religion-Spiritual