Interfaith Health Care Association of Manitoba


The Mental Health Benefits of Spirituality and Religion

This week we will be featuring three Spiritual Health practitioners working in mental health throughout the province. They were posed some questions and have responded in their way.

Widny Pervil works at St. Boniface Hospital’s McEwen Building which is the home for the Psychiatry program at SBH. 

What is the role of Spiritual Health in working with clients on a Mental Health unit?

What resources do you offer to facilitate the spiritual well-being of clients?

 "The role of spiritual health in working with patients on a Mental Health unit is to provide psychotherapeutic conversation using the belief system, faith tradition, culture and values of the patients to nurture their spirit.  Spiritual Health facilitates coping by keeping patients engaged with their source of hope and meaning."

He finds the following interventions particularly helpful in his practice:

  • Mindfulness and meditation to keep patients grounded. 
  • Validation therapy to give the patient a sense of worth.
  • Religious and emotional support to improve spiritual well-being.

There is a lot of research that correlates spiritual well-being to better mental health outcomes. How have you seen this in the clients you work with at McEwen?

In his practice, he has noticed that for some patients who chose to have Spiritual Health included in their care plan, they tend to process their experience in such a way that they are less burdened by their illness. Patients who are dealing with mental health challenges often welcome him as they are longing for connection. A part of his responsibility is to provide a safe space for patients to share their emotional and spiritual struggles.  For instance, when people feel angry at God or are confused about life, this can lead to very intense conversations.

Patients want to have a professional sit with them and actively listen to their emotional distress and spiritual uncertainty. In the process, patients may experience a clarification of their concerns and sometimes a shift towards resolution.

For those whose faith is their anchor, they are seeking a spiritual health practitioner to guide them with scripture, rituals and prayer.

Widny has noticed that spiritual health contributes to a patient’s sense of dignity and worth which is often part of the discharge goal.

He is grateful to his team members who have become proficient in assessing spiritual distress and know when to consult him. He is also grateful that the WRHA has a commitment to treat patients holistically – body, mind and spirit.

Question: What resources do you offer staff to help improve their well-being?

Widny encourages staff to take the CBT with mindfulness course. This is one of the resources offered free through Shared Health. The course teaches you how to deal constructively with anger, how to be assertive, how to practice self-compassion and how to improve your problem-solving skills. It also delves into coping with stressful experiences. 

To learn more, click here

He appreciates Catalyst e-news, which is part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

For apps, he recommends Mindshift (for help with anxiety) and BALANCE.COM (to improve sleep, stress and more).