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Pastoral Responses to Mental Health Issues

Third level unit for undergraduates
Elective unit for postgraduate students

Content: This unit explores the nature of mental illness, in particular, the spiritual dimension of mental illness and the nature of spiritual care. The issues raised will be critically examined in order to develop an understanding of the inherent dignity of the individual living with a mental illness and how they find meaning and purpose within this context. Through reflection, case study and group interaction the unit aims to increase participants’ working knowledge of current issues and integrate approaches to mental health and spirituality within practice. The unit provides an alternative pastoral view to the current medical paradigm that is consistent with spiritual care and healthcare practice. The course will develop skills in assessing the spiritual needs of the person through the listening process and then enable reflection on an appropriate pastoral response. A critical familiarity with current thought and research in this field is explored throughout the unit and there will be a special focus on critical responses to the publication of DSM 5.

Learning Outcomes: upon successful completion of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an holistic awareness of the relationship between spirituality and mental health and an awareness of the spiritual and religious needs of people living with mental illness;
2. Describe and illustrate an understanding of the impact of the illness on all aspects of the person’s life within a family and societal context, particularly the impact of stigma, guilt, shame, abuse, loss of identity, and disenfranchised grief;
3. Identify and develop a theological and spiritual rationale for the pastoral care of people with mental health issues;
4. Demonstrate a pastoral awareness of the ethical issues, responsibilities and boundary-setting criteria necessary for those working in the mental health field (including referral skills and multidisciplinary and interfaith sensitivity);
postgraduate students will also be able to
5. Integrate practical theological reflection with contemporary research that engages with the practice paradigm that drives mental health policy and treatment in Australia.

Assessment :

Undergraduate Level 3
Reflective Case Study   2000 words         50%
Research Essay            2500 words             50%

Postgraduate level 9
Reflective Case Study   3000 words         50%
Research Essay            3000 words             50%

Prerequisites: one foundational unit in Pastoral Theology and Ministry Studies

Offered: In 2019 as an intensive in semester 2

Teaching Methods: as the emphasis is on active participation, interaction and discussion, teaching methods will offer: lecturer input, group discussion and reflection, leading guided imagery, supervised role playing, guiding responses to stories, exploration of poems and music and the of the use of related resources and activities.

Faculty: Sr Ros Cairns

Special Note: Postgraduate students will receive a special Reading Pack containing recent peer-reviewed responses illustrating current thinking and debate in mental health.

Other recommended reading:

Boisen, A. The Exploration of the Inner World: A Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1936.
Clarke, I. Psychosis and Spirituality: Exploring the New Frontier. London: Whurr Publishers, 2001.
Cobb, M, Puchalski, C. & Rumbold, B. (eds), Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Gardner, F. Critical Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Contemporary Practice. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011
Gordon, T., Kelly, E., Mitchell, D. Spiritual Care for Healthcare Professionals: Reflecting on Clinical Practice. London: Radcliffe, 2011.
Jamison, K. An Unquiet Mind: a Memoir of Moods and Madness. New York: Picador, 1997
Kelleher, R. A Voice at the Table: An Integrated Model for Pastoral Care in Aged Mental Health. Mulgrave: John Garrett Publishing, 2011
Koenig, H. Faith and Mental Health: Religious Resources for Healing. Philadelphia,PA: Templeton, 2005
Louw, D., Ito, T. and Elsdorfer, U. Encounter in Pastoral Care and Spiritual Healing: Towards and Integrative and Intercultural Approach, Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012
McSherry, W., & Ross, L. (eds) (2010). Spiritual assessment in healthcare practice. Keswick, M&K Publishing
Roberts, S. (ed.) Professional, Spiritual and Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain’s Handbook, Woodstock, Vermont: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2012
Vanier, J. Seeing Beyond Depression, London: Harper Collins, 2001
Whitehead . & Whitehead James. Transforming our Painful Emotions: Spiritual Resources in Anger, Shame, Grief, Fear and Loneliness. Maryknoll: Orbis, 2010