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New Study: Benefits of Spirituality Affirmed

By Katrina Gay, NAMI Director of Communications

A recent University of Missouri (MU) study highlighting the positive role of spirituality in recovery from physical and mental health conditions reaffirms what previous NAMI surveys have revealed. In spite of the tremendous hardship of the personal experience of a health crisis, including a mental health condition, the resilience of the human spirit emerges as one of hope, faith and triumph for many.

When NAMI asked individuals living with schizophrenia and depression, in two separate surveys, what components are most important in their mental illness recovery, survey respondents of both NAMI’s Schizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs in 2008 and Depression: Gaps and Guideposts in 2009 reported prayer and spirituality as primary, just below medication, psychotherapy or counseling and, for depression, exercise.

Forty percent of respondents living with depression reported spirituality as a primary form of treatment. Additionally, a majority reported that participation in their spiritual or religious practices had not been adversely affected by their depression.

For individuals living with schizophrenia, 38 percent reported a greater connection to religious or spiritual practices as part of their treatment and recovery.

It comes as no surprise then that MU study, reported in the paper, “Relationships among Spirituality, Religious Practices, Personality Factors, and Health for Five Different Faiths”, published in the Journal of Religion and Health, echoes NAMI’s own discovery.

MU explored recovery experiences of individuals of five main faiths: Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Surveys were conducted of individuals self-reporting their physical health and mental health and highlight the relationship between these two conditions. Across all five practices, a greater degree of spirituality was related to better mental health and despite differences in beliefs among the world’s main religions, the study reveals that spirituality enhances health regardless.

"Our prior research shows that the mental health of people recovering from different medical conditions appears to be related significantly to positive spiritual beliefs and especially congregational support and spiritual interventions," said Dan Cohen, assistant teaching professor of religious studies at MU and one of the co-authors of the study.

As health care providers, families, individuals and faith leaders continue to recognize the positive role of faith in recovery, they can better meet their own needs and the needs of their family members, patients and faith community and enhance their own and others’ experiences.

Read more on the Medical News Today website. Read the abstract of the study.

NAMI FaithNet is an online community including a clearinghouse of grassroots perspectives, provides resources, tools and encouragement for individuals and all faith communities to assist in this effort.


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