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Role of religion and spirituality in mental health of young adults

When young people suffer from mental illnesses, they often peak during young adulthood from 18 to 25 years. Many of these young adults struggle with serious mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or major depression and they may have also experienced severe adversities such as abuse, poverty, homelessness, addiction, loss and near-death experiences. Some of these people don’t even have proper access to medical and mental health services. For this population, sensitive care — which incorporates their culture — is very important. Religion and spirituality play a big role in one’s culture and according to new research, these are important aspects to consider in the assessment and treatment of mental illness.

Researchers from Baylor University examined data from 55 young adults (18 to 25 years) with a serious mental illness who had used crisis emergency services. Thirty-four young adults talked about religion and spirituality without any prompting in the context of their mental health symptoms and services used. Fofty-one per cent of the sample did not identify with any religious preference and their answers ranged from “none”, “I don’t know” to “other”.

Among those who discussed the role of their support systems and faith, they often talked about family or friends referencing God or religion for support.

In spite of the mental illnesses they suffered from and the adversities they faced, most of the young adults tried to make sense of their situation through a religious or spiritual perspective and talked about God as a source of support and comfort.

The researchers found that those surveyed used positive religious coping, such as prayer, reading religious texts, support from their religious and spiritual communities and identifying religious and spiritual meaning in difficult situations. Some also had negative religious coping or experiences, which involved having a negative experience with a religious organisation not being supportive or receiving hurtful messages from the religious community.

There were also those who discussed their relationship with God or a higher power providing a sense of comfort or protection, accepting them for who they were or positively intervening in their lives. Among those who discussed the role of their support systems and faith, they often talked about family or friends referencing God or religion for support. Some even offered recommendations to those struggling with mental illnesses that involved religion and spirituality.

However, some found that the reference to God or religion by a family or friend was less helpful. Interestingly, the researchers also found that those who had negative religious experiences ended up using positive religious or spiritual coping or having a positive relationship with God.

Religion and spirituality are complex topics and this study shows that religion and spirituality are a great source of comfort, support and resilience for young people’s mental health. This makes it necessary for mental health workers to get the appropriate training so they can integrate this area in the treatment and care plans of these young adults.

Source: Spirituality in Clinical Practice

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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