Deacon Tom Lambert

Deacon Tom Lambert

January 21, 2013

When Deacon Tom Lambert’s wife was hospitalized for open heart surgery, friends brought unsolicited meals to the family’s door in Fall River, Mass.

“For three or four weeks, every day at 6 o’clock, the bell would ring and a different family would bring us dinner,” he said.

Those neighbours and fellow parishioners were responding to a need.

But a different illness in his family some years later garnered no response.

“When our daughter was diagnosed with mental illness, no one came to the door,” he said.

That was 25 years ago, and Deacon Lambert, who co-chairs the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s Council on Mental Illness, said awareness is essential in overcoming the stigma associated with a disease of the mind.

In the United States, the mental illness disability rate has more than doubled since the 1980s and increased six-fold since the 1950s.

Some clinicians and researchers believe the increase has been influenced by factors such as environmental and social causes.

Others theorize that a widening set of criteria for diagnosing mental illness has led to a rise in the number of people living with such a disability.