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Bishop Dolan speaks exclusively to ABC15 about new Catholic mental health ministry

Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 13, 2022

In an exclusive interview with ABC15, Bishop John P. Dolan with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix spoke out about plans to open up a Mental Health Ministry.

He says it’s a ray of hope for more than a million Catholics who call Arizona home.

“We are now establishing an office for Catholic Mental Health Ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix,” he told ABC15.

“That’s big,” said ABC15’s Luzdelia Caballero.

“That’s huge,” responded Bishop Dolan.

It would be a first in Arizona and one Bishop Dolan says is going to be life changing for many throughout the state.

“The Office for Mental Health Ministry won’t just focus on suicide. It will focus on the whole gamut of mental health related issues,” he added.

The diocese held a historic mass of remembrance for those who died by suicide on September 4th, 2022.

“It went from 100 to well over 1,000 names in just a matter of days, and It became apparent to me that truly this was something that was needed,” said Bishop Dolan.

He is hoping that this ministry, like the Mass of Remembrance, will aid in the effort to help break the stigma on mental health, because for him it’s personal.

“It was near and dear to my particular heart because my own family suffered from mental health related issues. My brother Tom died by suicide. He was 19 years old. In his particular case he was struggling with mental health disorder(s), but we didn’t know that. We thought he was just acting out.”

Eight years later, his family received more devastating news.

“My junior year in the seminary, we were all waiting for my sister Therese and her husband to come to Thanksgiving dinner, but they didn’t,” Bishop Dolan told ABC15.

Therese died by suicide a day prior, she was 27 years old.

Her husband, Joe, couldn’t bear to tell Bishop Dolan's family, and died by suicide that morning.

“That was very hard for me because I was just not talking about it. We just didn’t,” he said.

Young Dolan, at that moment, was at a loss for words but he knew he was ready for change.

A change we are now seeing in Arizona.

“Things have evolved,” said ABC15.

“Oh yeah. So now of course I think it is time to start talking about it because I think it affects everyone on a number of levels,” responded Bishop Dolan.

Ultimately, he hopes this new ministry will serve to heal the community and…

“To save lives, but also to understand that if lives can’t be saved, we can still communicate and talk and walk with each other,” he said.

Bishop Dolan tells ABC15 he is hoping to have the office set up and started as early as next month, though if not by then…certainly by the end of the year.

"The Catholic Mental Health Ministry is about loving, not treating…it’s about loving. And that’s where it begins, and that’s where it ends,” he said.