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Mental health. The Italian Church launches the project “Accolti.it” to counter the throwaway culture

A digital platform to share experiences and good practices of small and large Catholic realities. The goal is to counter the culture of segregation and rejection with the culture of welcome. The project will be launched in Rome on February 21

To develop a network of good practices giving a voice to all Catholic structures dedicated to people with mental disorders and create an area for counselling and support to families of mentally disabled patients. It’s the goal of Accolti.it, the national project for embracing mental disabilities that will be launched in Rome on February 21 during the seminar “From segregation to reception: accolti.it. The initiative is promoted by the Italian Bishops’ Conference – CEI – National Office for the Pastoral Care of the Sick and the National Committee on Health established within the same Office in the framework of the first day of the 22nd National Italian Psychopathology Association  Congress (SOPSI) – February 21-24 – attended by three-thousand renowned psychiatrists. His Eminence Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, Archbishop of Agrigento, President of the Bishops’ Commission for Service to Charity and Health, will deliver the opening speech.

Father Massimo Angelelli, Director of the CEI Office and member of the above-mentioned Committee set up over a year ago, representing 12 of the most distinguished Italian psychiatrists, told SIR that the Seminar will be a meeting “of healthcare workers and managers of healthcare and rehabilitation structures, the members of the Committee and other professionals engaged in this sector included in the SOPSI Conference.” The purpose of the event is “to share know-how and experience of good practices, along with the enhancement of the specific Christian inspiration in a world with increasing numbers of the ‘last among the last’.” The seminar, Father Angelelli pointed out, is not the “final objective but rather

the point of departure to lay the grounds of the project Accolti.it

in response to increasing numbers of people affected by psychiatric disorders that in Italy are becoming the first cause of disability, where people find themselves victims of an inexorable stigma that is bound to increase in the coming years.”

The figures confirm this tragic trend: in 2015 national specialized medical services have assisted over 700 thousand psychiatric patients (245thousand affected by schizophrenia), more than half of whom were women. 66,1% of the total number were over 45. Italy has 183 mental health wards. With this meeting – Fr Angelelli went on – we wish to reopen the chapter of psychiatric and neuropsychiatric rehabilitation that is of great interest to us but that is seldom spoken of.   Mental disorders are addressed at academic and therapeutic level, but also the ensuing rehabilitation stage, carried out in the many Catholic structures, delivers excellent results. In this respect the dedicated Healthcare Committee – whose members include professionals  that are not necessarily believers, but all outstanding experts – meets the realm of rehabilitation. It’s significant for this to happen in the framework of the SOPSI Conference, the most important annual event in this sector. The Catholic “operative” network consists of over 160 Rsa (Residential care homes) for patients with mental illnesses in addition to many hospitals with wards for the care of acute illnesses. These include the IRCCS Fatebenefratelli in Brescia (for adults) and for child psychiatry at the Medea Institute in Bovisio Parini (Lecco). In addition to these realties increasing numbers of dioceses have activated counselling centres and reception services for the mentally disabled.

The first session of the seminar, Angelelli said, will be marked by an “internal” debate between representatives of Catholic structures, with panel speeches by the directors of the psychiatric ward of the Fatebenefratelli in Brescia, from the Serafico Institute in Assisi and of the Piccola Opera Charitas Foundation in Giulianova (Teramo). In the second part of the morning “we will ask three eminent psychiatrists (including the president of Sopsi) to examine ways to put to best use our cooperation”. For the first time a psychiatric Congress will be opened by a Cardinal. “In his speech His Eminence Cardinal Montegro will trace lines of action for everyone.” Speaking about the project, Fr Angelelli explained:Accolti.it is meant to be an answer to Pope Francis’ invitation to combat the throwaway culture – and psychiatric patients risk being one of the worst forms of rejection in society – by countering it with the culture of welcome.

Accolti.it will become a portal,

An online area to share, highlight and share projects, experiences and good practices of welcome carried out by many Catholic realities.

A major meeting point for these structures and also a form of support to all the families striving to assist their dear ones with disabilities 24 hours a day, often left without knowing who to turn to for help.” An Internet platform, he concluded, “to give a voice also to many small diocesan initiatives lacking the strength of great groups, which would otherwise be unnoticed.”

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