University of Dallas counselor Doug Scott had a unique encounter with God at the beginning of the semester.
“I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament when it hit me that it would be nice to have an intentional place and time for a contemplative experience [of] solidarity with all those going through emotional turmoil,” Scott said.
The Mental Health Monday Meditations at the Church of the Incarnation were created following conversations with Campus Ministry and later approved by Chaplain Fr. Don Dvorak.
Mental Health Meditations is a program where students are able to receive divine assistance for their human struggles. The meditations are held every Monday from 1—1:20 p.m.
“It’s a healing, Mass-like activity, where all parts of the Body of Christ come together to pray for the grace of clarity in times of mental turmoil and pray for others,” Scott said.
The benefit of meditation is twofold, according to Scott.
On one hand, contemplation and meditation alleviate symptoms of mental illness.
On the other hand, involving the Holy Spirit and Jesus, the divine healer, allows one to fully access the healing powers of God.
College poses three unique challenges for many students, Scott said.
“Students are finding out who they are as people, or their vocation,” Scott said. “Between 18 and 23 [years of age] we start making decisions about ideas that help us realize who we are as people; it’s the most critical time. Sometimes we need to go to therapy seeking direction on who we are.”
Other practical causes of psychological stress can be deadlines, especially for those transitioning to college life.
“Any previous anxiety disorders bring out that stress even more,” Scott said. “People come to our office to learn how to navigate through that in a healthy way.”
Finally, people in college are trying to figure out what they believe on a spiritual level, especially at UD.
“Often situations like this are brought about by family-of-origin issues,” Scott said, “Some love and buy into what they were taught, some rebel … others don’t know what they believe.”
During the college years, he said, that most people determine where they fit in the religious sphere.
“Either people push against their childhood faith experience and leave and later come back, leave for good, or leave and find something else,” Scott said.
Scott remarked that UD has not always promoted a culture that is sensitive to mental health issues.
“The other counselors, Campus Ministry, [and I] all agreed there needs to be more awareness,” said Scott. “[A stigma surrounds mental illness on campus] possibly from the parents who say that seeing a counselor is not OK.”
Students must make sure they do not have that same mentality.
“Sometimes people equate mental illness with being insane,” Scott said. “That’s like saying everyone with a cold has the black plague.”
Students must have a desire to help those seeking resolution to emotional distress because, so many suffer from mental illness.
“60 percent of college students could have a diagnosable mental illness within their four years of college,” Scott said. “You are not alone and you don’t need to suffer alone. Even Jesus, who is God, needed help carrying the Cross, so why do we think that we don’t need help?”
Scott said that Christians in particular must recognize mental illness as a gift.
“In [2 Corinthians 2:19], Paul talks about a thorn in his side, but God answers, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you,’” he said. “When one can work with mental illness and accept it, you can learn much about yourself. In that sense, it’s great to be mentally ill.”
Scott also said that emotional distress is an invitation by God to reflect on who we are.
“When we are weak and have no place to go, we find new helpful ways of being and new ways of thinking,” he said.