Mental health can determine the course of our lives regardless of age or life circumstance.

Lisa Wagner-Carollo, Deaf and Disability Ministry Coordinator at Catholic Charities Kansas City-Saint Joseph, feels strongly about mental health and how crucial it is for making your life the best life you can have. “I really feel like it’s foundation for living a full life, foundation for living a fruitful life.” Wagner-Carollo said. “To have healthy mental health really helps us to be more able to give of ourselves, more able to serve, and more able to care for each other.”

Wagner-Carollo talks about the importance of self-reflection on your reaction to the situation rather than looking at external factors on why you feel that way.

“If you’re trying to care for others, you really need to have a basis of care for yourself.” Wagner-Carollo said. “Moving through the world, if we’re in particular trying to work in a field where we’re in service, you know it is just so essential we have a strong foundation of caring for ourselves”. Wagner-Carollo likens this to an example used on airplanes: put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then put it on the child. The best thing you can do for others is give the best of yourself to yourself first.

Wagner-Carollo says through her position at CCKCSJ, a big way she has found support is through her wellness coach.

“I think what is helpful about talking to a wellness coach is it helps you look at life clearly.” Wagner-Carollo said. “So many of us are so busy that we just have the tendency to go-go-go and not really step back and reflect on your life and how you’re experiencing life. ” Wagner-Carollo said her coach has allowed her to see the unhealthy habits that she built up in her life and the steps that she should take to change them. “Always do it with gentleness. You don’t want to beat yourself up over this.”

Wagner-Carollo also says there are key practices one can make to drastically improve your outlook on life.

“It is all about physically taking care of the body such as eating right and physical exercise as well as getting adequate sleep. It’s also taking time for quiet/ prayer and journaling with self-reflection.” Wagner-Carollo said. “Sharing with others your problems and having a support network for your mental health is very important.”

As a spiritual director herself, she has seen this play out in the church and feels that it is important to be able to integrate mental health back into the church.

“We have our humanity, and we have our faith, and it is all in one piece. Part of our humanity is illness and struggling, pain, grief, and loss.” Wagner-Carollo said  “Many people in our diocese may be living with mental illness or have a family member who is struggling with mental illness who are just feeling isolated at the moment.”

To alleviate this, Catholic Charities is launching a mental health ministry program, available to parishes, to start the dialogue and conversation to spark change “That is really what is on the forefront for me is just to be able to help those individuals and those families feel supported and to feel the care of their church communities around this.”

Wagner-Carollo says this program,  funded by a grant from the Catholic Association of Mental Health Ministers,  is working on establishing at least 10 ministries at 10 different parishes within the Diocese. “We met the founder,  Deacon Ed Shoener and he started this whole organization motivated by  his daughter, who sadly took her own life when she was in her 20s. I really understand that because my brother took his life and so I have a deep understanding of that journey.”

The program will be spearheaded by a Parish Mental Health Coordinator will be responsible for outreach and equipping the parish with training about mental health and better understanding.

“Many people receive mental health first aid,” Wagner-Carollo said. “It’s a skill-based course training that teaches participants about mental health and substance abuse issues.”

Wagner-Carollo says that their model is like God; full of love, and healing care. “As we walk with God in our own brokenness, we walk with each other in our brokenness.”

Wagner-Carollo says because of that, God opens doors for healing and that one of those doorways is through the ability to serve others.

“When people come together to support each other, often what emerges is joy,” Wagner-Carollo said.

“As we experience those challenges, it is essential that we support each and that is what this new ministry is all about.” To learn more, email Lisa Wagner-Carollo at

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