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Religion, Spirituality and Mental Health: response from the Executive Committee of the Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group

Research demonstrates important associations between religiosity and wellbeing. Spirituality and religious faith are important coping mechanisms for managing stressful life events. Despite this, there is a “religiosity gap” between mental health clinicians and their patients. The former are less likely to be religious and recent correspondence in the Bulletin suggests that some at least do not consider it appropriate to encourage discussion of any spiritual or religious concerns with patients. However, it is difficult to see how failure to discuss such matters can be consistent with the objective of gaining a full understanding of the patient‟s condition and their self-understanding, or attracting their full and active engagement with services. Research demonstrates largely positive associations between religiosity and wellbeing. Additionally, religion is a prevalent coping strategy in those experiencing adverse life events.

 Recent mental health literature differentiates religion from spirituality. Spirituality is expressed through art, poetry and myth, as well as religious practice. Both religion and spirituality typically emphasize the depth of meaning and purpose in life. One does not, of course, have to be religious for life to be deeply meaningful, as atheists will avow. Yet while some atheists might not consider themselves spiritual, many do. Spirituality is thus a more inclusive concept than religion.


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