Counselors say mental illness is not reflection of one’s spiritual life

Donovan Roudabush
Staff Writer

Two intern counselors from the Franciscan University of Steubenville Wellness Center said in a talk Friday evening that mental illness is not a reflection of a person’s spiritual life.

Sanziana Tamiian and Mary Kate Francisco, graduate students in the clinical mental health counseling program, gave a talk called “Breaking the Stigma” as part of a weekend capstone series called “Navigating Mental Health as Catholics and Supporting Others in Their Battles.” Matt Burriss, director of the Wellness Center, was also present.

“Everyone knows here someone who has struggled with a mental illness,” Tamiian said.

The speakers talked about mental health, particularly the false misconceptions that can come from a zealous environment such as Franciscan.

“We all deserve to be healthy,” Tamiian said. “Just like someone who has a broken ankle deserves to get healed. … We especially know with this pandemic, everyone deserves to be healthy.”

Tamiian spoke about her own struggles with mental health when she first came to Franciscan. She had all the signs of the rough start many freshmen experience — not showing up to class, failing grades and staying in bed.

It is rough moving away for the first time and having to manage everything on your own, Tamiian said, but often people feel like they have to suffer on their own.

Often people dismiss mental illness — such as depression and anxiety — as a lack of piety.

“Mental illness is our cross to bear, so we must bear it in silence,” Tamiian said when describing this misconception.

Francisco said having such issues is not a reflection of one’s personal spiritual life, and God desires that we avail ourselves of professional help.

“Do good Catholics get diabetes?” said Francisco. “Do good Catholics get heart failure? Or is there something that makes mental illness different than physical illness?”

Francisco said, “Spirituality does play a role in mental health. It is an important factor for remaining mentally healthy which is so good and valuable as Catholics that we have that opportunity.”

Katy Prejean McGrady, an international Catholic speaker, gave a second talk in the weekend series Saturday at 1 p.m. entitled “Jesus and the Church Care About Your Mental Health.”

The event was sponsored by the Wellness Center, Residence Life and Student Government.