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About us Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies Research Institutes Centre Religion, Health and Wellbeing Research Themes

Mental health and Meaning

Mental health and Meaning

Hanneke Muthert

What do we consider to be mentally healthy (or unhealthy) when viewed in a specific context? And how are these differing views linked specifically to people’s sense of meaning and their spiritual convictions? The views of the person being asked the question will inevitably affect the answer. Although mental healthcare organizations are paying more attention to searching for fulfilment and spiritual convictions these days, a common language for discussing these issues is often sadly lacking. On the other hand, ‘symptomatic language’ or words from the psycho-pathological reference framework are becoming mainstream outside the clinical world. Take the terms ‘borderline times’ or ‘depression epidemic’, as used to typify the current era. So which ideologically-coloured coping strategies appear to be successful?

One of the perspectives that could be used to consider the dynamics described above is the psycho-dynamic angle. How, or to what extent, do people connect their inner world with the outside world? And why are some people so much more receptive to input from third parties, including ideological traditions, than others for whom interaction is constantly dominated by their own experiences? Why is it so difficult nowadays to find words for your own ideology, let alone link it to your personal biography or possible mental disorders? But also: how do possibilities (and impossibilities) in processing grief affect spiritual notions such as forgiveness, the image of God, etc.? Literature searches (i.e. psycho-dynamic concepts in relation to other (religious) psychological insights, philosophy, sociology, theology) in combination with qualitative methods (interviews, observation, case studies), form theoretical, practical and useful frameworks around finding fulfilment and mental health. The spiritual care field is also closely involved. Spiritual carers are professionals who work in the field of fulfilment and spiritual convictions. What makes them experts and how exactly do they use their expertise in mental health questions? What can we learn from them?

Which expertise can the cluster supply, and who is it aimed at?

We are keen to offer help in the area of religion, fulfilment and spiritual health, with or without actual spiritual care. Expertise from the relational (psycho-dynamic) angle outlined above can be linked to other disciplines and perspectives. Key themes: grief, trauma, spiritual autobiography and professional guidance in various mental healthcare-related areas.

Last modified:05 December 2018 12.32 p.m.
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