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Faith and Life: Integrating God and psychology

September 30, 2011|By Kimberlie Zakarian

I was recently asked to write my definition of mental health.

After some thought, I composed the following: “The ability to effectively function, recover, relate and contribute to your family, other close interpersonal relationships, society and work and feel hope and happiness in a productive and healthy manner while obtaining your own life goals.”

What caused me to create this definition is that I treat patients in my office who have lost the desire to accomplish some or all of these actions. Mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss and the like, hinder one’s actual craving to live life.

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Patients can lose desire or capability to relate or contribute to work, family, or society. They may have lost pleasure and hope to achieve things they have been working on in their own lives or careers.

I use the term “desire” because most often, people do not lose the physical ability — it is the desire that leaves. Then a cycle ensues. Without desire, people do not go out and do things they used to do, they lose connection with others, they lose purpose and their symptoms increase, sometimes immobilizing them.

If I can encourage someone to go to work, get involved in a cause or get back into contributing to society, they invariably almost always feel better that day. We were created to give to, and receive from, others. One of the most effective symptom-reducers is to go out and be among people.

Even if one is just lonely, this is the treatment necessary to live in hope, happiness, productivity and purpose. We literally need community for psychological health. Emotional survival is based on giving to others.

Having gone into private practice, I found myself isolated from community. I needed to be around others outside the office. So I attended the Community Clergy Counsel meeting at the sheriff’s station. This is a program in which local clergy volunteer their services for ride-alongs with police officers to get to the community and make themselves available for crisis situations.

It was wonderful to hear from the officers, to be a small part of helping when the need arises. I also volunteer at my son’s school to be with him and help in a simple way in that smaller school community.

Then I found myself on the receiving end of community at another local school at my child’s individualized educational program.

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