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Saint Dymphna & Mental Health | Suicide Prevention Month | Keep God in Life

In Honor of Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, we're taking a look into the life of Saint Dymphna and her work of healing mental illness. Born to a royal family in Ireland in the seventh century, she was baptized without her father's knowledge or approval. The death of her mother, who died young, drove Dymphna's father insane and demanded that she marry him. A priest, Gerebernus, helped Dymphna make her escape to Belgium and found refuge at St. Martin of Tours' chapel.

The priest and her took to doing good works until one day her father, a king at the time, tracked her down. When Dymphna refused marriage, the king ordered his servants to remove her head with a sword. As gruesome as it was, it's reported that the view of Dymphna's head rolling to the church cured five villagers of their insanity. This was her first act of healing power and her legend began to radiate for miles. From the earliest mention of the saint in liturgy, Dymphna was seen as the patron of those mentally ill.

The residents of Gheel, the city where she was slain, had long opened up their doors to those with mental illness, providing them with warmth and shelter. The families of the town were not mental health experts but rather had exceptional gifts of caring for those with disorders, sprung from their deep faith and compassion. Studies of this village have found that their model of community delivered a level of humanistic care a millennium prior to modern psychiatry and yet so strongly recognized its value.

Saint Dymphna's influence can be felt at an individual level. Many of us have struggled with mental illness or seen the effects of mental health take its toll on others. There's much to learn from her and from the care given in the village of Gheel, something we can all strive to emulate. She is a source of inspiration for all of us and you can invoke her name in intercession for yourself or others in need of healing of mental health disorders. She can even be asked to intercede for help with day to day stresses and anxieties. Take a look at St. Dymphna prayer cards, jewelry, and gifts to keep with you as added strength for your mental wellbeing.

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