Did you hear what the new Pope said about what is needed to be addressed to improve behavioral healthcare? Of course not, because he didn't address that subject directly -- not even to comment on the psychological issues related to the scandalous sexual abuse behavior of so many priests.
Yet, what he did say in his homily at his inaugural Mass seems all too relevant for our field. For example, he stated:
"It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each, and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about."
We know, and I hope the Pope knows, that those with mental illness are among the last we think about in our society, that is, until there is a suspicion that mental illness is responsible for a mass murder. Not only are our overall resources to care for the mentally ill, at least in the USA, dwindling down, but the poor, for whom the Pope has shown such loving kindness, have always received less mental healthcare.
He even went into behavioral concerns that we in the field have tended to ignore and neglect. He said that the Church mission not only "respects each of God's creatures," but also respects "the environment we love." Given the ever-increasing evidence that our behavior has let to climate instability, we need to heed his call.
Further connecting people and the environment, he concluded that whenever we fail to take care of the environment and each other, "the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened." Certainly, we want to reduce destruction, whether that be via guns, cruelty, stigma, or war, and our treatments must be geared to softening hearts, should they not?
I'm not Catholic, but on the cusp of Spring, I felt the pope was speaking to me and my profession. Indeed, there is much overlap between religion and psychiatry. Our clocks have already sprung forward. Let healthy behavior spring forward also. Amen.