“Overwork and work-related stress cause many people to experience extreme exhaustion —mental, emotional, affective, and physical exhaustion.”
Pope Francis opened the video accompanying his prayer intention for November with those words with which most people can probably identify.
His intention was released in this month’s The Pope Video, prepared by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
It comes as people living in the Northern Hemisphere enter the Autumn and Winter seasons, during which cooler weather is often accompanied by rainy days and more time spent indoors.
The Pope took note of that seasonal situation in his timely prayer intention.
“Sadness, apathy, and spiritual tiredness end up dominating people’s lives, who are overloaded due to the rhythm of life today,” he said.
Pope Francis thus encouraged everyone to reach out to those around us who are depressed, desperate, or without hope. And he advised against comforting others with too many words.
“Often,” he said, “we should just simply listen in silence, because we cannot go and tell someone, ‘No, life’s not like that. Listen to me, I’ll give you the solution.’”
“There is no solution,” remarked the Pope.
Jesus’ offer of comfort
However, he continued, besides “indispensable psychological counseling”, Jesus’ words can help us and others to find solace: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
With that advice in mind, Pope Francis wrapped up his prayer intention video message with a renewed invitation to assist those around us.
“Let us pray that people who suffer from depression or burn-out will find support and a light that opens them up to life,” he prayed.
Choosing life amid depression
The November edition of The Pope Video was created in conjunction with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, which offers spiritual support for people suffering various forms of mental illness.
According to a press release accompanying the video, around 1 in 10 people worldwide lives with a mental health disorder, amounting to 792 million people or 11 percent of the population.
Depression and anxiety account for around 3 and 4 percent, respectively, of those illnesses.
They can sometimes lead to suicide when left untreated or are severe and recurrent. Some 700,000 people commit suicide each year, making it the fourth leading cause of death in people aged 15 to 29.
As has been well-noted, the Covid-19 pandemic, and its associated restrictions on daily life, has led severely tested the mental and emotional resilience of many people.
Pope Francis’ call for us to pray and assist those who suffer from depression is therefore an important and timely invitation.