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Newsletter, October-November 2017

Seminar on Mental Health of the Population - Concern for Medics and the Church

A seminar on 'Mental health of the population - a concern for medics and the Church' took place at the assembly hall of the Cathedral of the Annunciation, diocese of Voronezh. It was held as part of the project for broadening the cooperation between the Russian Orthodox diocese of Voronezh and regional medical institutions in supporting patients who need special attitude and special care skills. The participants discussed problems involved in organizing psychiatric aid in the Voronezh region, peculiarities of the pastoral care for patients with mental disorders and various aspects of the influence of religion on the mental health of a person.

The seminar was opened with an address made by Metropolitan Sergiy of Voronezh and Liski. He pointed to the importance of interaction between the Church and medical workers in general and in particular in the healing of mentally ill patients.

Remarks and reports on the contemporary scientific views of the problem of mental health were made by numerous participants in the forum. Ms. Nadezhda Ostroushko, head of the Voronezh regional healthcare department for medical aid to adults, made a report on 'The organization of psychiatric aid in the Voronezh region'. Grigoriy Kopeiko, Ph.D (Medicine), deputy director for research of the Scientific Mental Health Center, introduced the meeting to his study on 'Religiosity and mental health'. Oleg Shiryaev, Ph.D (Medicine), professor at the chair of psychiatry and narcology, Voronezh Burdenko State University of Medicine under the Russian Healthcare Ministry, presented a report on 'Mental illnesses and religious experiences in clinical psychiatry'.

Representing the diocese of Voronezh, Alexander Shevchenko, PhD (Philosophy), presented a paper on 'Religious phenomena and psychiatry from philosophical and theological perspectives'. Rev. Artemiy Gordeyev, made a report on 'Pastoral care for patients with mental disorders'.

The presentations were followed by a discussion in which the speakers were asked questions concerning various aspects of medical practice and the Orthodox view of people's mental health.

In conclusion of the seminar, Metropolitan Sergiy thanked all the participants and pointed to the importance of the problems raised and called upon medical doctors and clergy to search for ways of solving problems of people's mental health in mutually beneficial dialogue.

From the materials on www.vob-eparhia.ru

A conference of fathers and mothers superior of patriarchal monasteries

A regular conference of fathers and mothers superior of patriarchal monasteries took place on November 14, 2017, at the Ugresha Patriarchal Monastery of St. Nicholas. Among its focuses was a discussion on problems involved in the pastoral care of mentally ill patients. In his address, Metropolitan Sergiy of Voronezh and Liski informed the gathering that the Inter-Council Presence's commission for church education and diakonia carried out under his guidance the work to study problems of pastoral care for people with mental disorders. The reason for the Church's addressing this subject is an increase in the number of people suffering from mental disorders. Traditionally, people with spiritual ailments and their relatives turn for spiritual help to monasteries, and often it is not so easy to distinguish a person's spiritual ailment from a mental disorder, as it may seem from first glance. In this connection, in the metropolitan's view, there is a need for church pastors and monastics to enter into cooperation with professionals in mental health.

The topic of the Church's interaction with mental health specialists was continued by experts of the Inter-Council Presence's commission: Mr. Kaleda, PhD (Medicine), deputy director of the Russian Academy of Medical Science's research center for mental health; Mr. G. Kopeiko, PhD (Medicine), deputy director for research work of the Burdenko State University research center for mental health, and Ms. M. Nelyubova, secretary of the commission.

Dr. Kaleda informed the conference that today 14% of Russians need psychiatric help and some 9 000 000 people in our country suffer from depression. Among the causes of the increase in the number of mental disorders, medics single out the society's loss of spiritual and family values. He reminded the participants that monasteries traditionally took care of mental patients, and textbooks on psychiatry refer to patristic works, which were the first to describe mental illnesses. He pointed out that it is the Church who often helps those who seek to find the meaning of life, and spiritual feelings constitute an important resource of a sick person. He also enumerated indications that make it possible to conclude that a person needs the psychiatric aid and reminded the conference that its rejection can have serious consequences for both the sick person and those around him or her.

Dr. Kopeiko spoke about myths and prejudices accompanying mental illnesses in our society as they prevent medical doctors from helping those in need of help. The sick often become objects for mockery; they are seen as uncontrollable and even dangerous for society. Actually, if a sick person received the necessary help and attention in good time, he or she can remain in society together with healthy people. A person, whose problems lie in the mental sphere, should not be feared and rejected; indeed, he or she is often proved to be gifted and capable to be of use to the cause they serve. Among the faithful there are different myths: that all the psychiatrists are atheists and that 'the Satan cannot be driven away by pills'. The psychiatrist suggested that this mythology should be left behind in the past so that the cooperation between the Church and medics in helping people with mental disorders may become fruitful.

Ms. Nelyubova, secretary of the Inter-Council Presences commission for church education and diakonia, reminded the participants that mental disorders are often caused by psychological traumatic experiences endured by a person in his or her childhood and proposed that all those who wish can take part in seminars at which specialists explain how to diagnose a psychological trauma and help people with such problems.

After the reports, experts answered questions from conference participants.

From materials on monasterium.ru

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