Take it from a therapist: you are not alone

Catholic Star Herald [Camden NJ]

May 13, 2021

By Rod Herrera

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

The trauma of child sexual abuse can be devastating. Victims/survivors can have life-long problems including low self-esteem, relationship difficulties, trust issues, alcohol and/or drug abuse or addiction, suicidal thoughts or attempts. When the sexual abuse is by a member of the clergy, the impact to the victims/survivors can extend to their faith in God and trust in the church.

Since the clergy sexual abuse scandal of the 1990s, the church is committed to healing victims/survivors. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 produced the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a remarkable document approved by and enforced by all 196 dioceses in the country. The Diocese of Camden is committed to pay for counseling for any victim/survivor of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon.

Trauma comes in all forms. I’m not in any way equating my trauma to that of child sexual abuse. Nearly four years ago I experienced what to me was a devastating trauma. A cherished friendship was abruptly terminated. My friend ended our friendship and I had no recourse to mending the relationship, to set things right. I plunged into a rabbit hole of depression and the emotional pain I experienced was perhaps the worst pain I had ever felt. My heart was broken into a thousand pieces. Depression is like drowning without being able to die. Dark thoughts consumed me.

As a therapist myself, I entered into counseling. After months of therapy, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, with the loving support of my family and friends, I clawed out of that rabbit hole. Honestly, there are still days when the cloud of depression darkens my day. I was that broken. But most of the time I use the tools therapy provided to me.

If you or a loved one are experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, consider therapy. If you or a loved one are experiencing stress and anxiety during this time of COVID or even for non-COVID reasons, consider therapy. If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts that you know are unhealthy, you are not alone — reach out to a qualified therapist to help you get back on track. The following agencies and phone numbers should be helpful.

1. National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  800-273-8255. Staffed 24 hours every day by trained volunteers to listen to people on the brink of making an irreversible decision.

2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. 800-950-6264. A support line that can provide information about mental disorders, counseling and other resources.

3. Catholic Charities Diocese of Camden. 866-682-2166. Provides skilled therapists for many mental health needs.

4. VITALity Mental Health Resource List. 888-268-4825. A program of the Diocese of Camden will provide therapists who are specifically faith-based.

Rod J. Herrera, LCSW, is Director, Office of Child and Youth Protection, Diocese of Camden.