Spiritual interpretations of mental disease can play a crucial part in therapeutic success. An awareness of âdemonicâ and other religious interpretations or models of mental diseases, and the fact that there is often stigma attached to mental health conditions in some cultures, is very important. There is also a need to be aware of cultural differences in attitudes to therapy. For instance, the treatment of mental illness by counselling (i.e. âtalking curesâ), which is an essentially Western model, cannot be assumed to work equally well in other cultures.
A holistic approach to the patient, which takes account of their physical, cultural, social, mental and spiritual needs, would seem to have a particular significance within mental health services. Spirituality and an individualâs religion or beliefs are increasingly acknowledged as playing an important role in the overall healing process. Stressful life events can lead to mental illness, and it is during these events that religion or specific beliefs can play a large part in the way that an individual copes. Most religions have developed symbols and analogies as a way of interpreting and coping with life events, and these are seen as tools that might be integrated into the medical healing process.
For instance, the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in its 2006 booklet Help is at hand â Spirituality and Mental Health: âSpirituality involves a dimension of human experiences that psychiatrists are increasingly interested in, because of its potential benefits to mental healthâ¦ Evidence for the benefits for mental health of belonging to a faith community, holding religious or spiritual beliefs, and engaging in associated practices, is now substantial.â