Religious Professionals, Ethical Dilemmas, and Mental Illness

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Abstract

In 2015, the American Psychiatric Association, conscious that those living with mental illness frequently turned to their faith leaders before seeking help in the mental health community, revised its guidelines for faith leaders and is taking a very active role in disseminating these to faith leaders of all traditions. Utilizing the guidelines, faith leaders and leaders in the mental health world are seeking to bridge the gap that has existed for too long between these 2 communities, a recognition of the importance of attending to the whole person in the process of recovery. By bridging the gap between these 2 communities that historically have viewed each other with suspicion, not only is the person in treatment benefiting but the professionals themselves benefit. Both groups of professionals face ethical dilemmas. Some of these dilemmas involve understanding the religious/spiritual dimension of a person’s life and faith community while others involve the mental health issues faith leaders encounter. The focus of this paper will be the ethical dilemmas that religious professionals/faith leaders encounter and how a relationship with a mental health professional might have helped in the resolution of the dilemma.

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