“Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well.” James H. West
Spiritual needs may arise in response to an illness, injury or loss. In these types of situations, many individuals find themselves looking for ways to find meaning, ways to express themselves, or ways to connect to their faith or beliefs.
Attending to spiritual health is vital to overall well-being and should be considered in each person’s health care plan.
The B.C. Ministry of Health recognizes spiritual health care as an integral part of whole person care – care that encompasses all dimensions of a person: the spiritual, physical, mental, social and emotional.
Spiritual health care supports people’s abilities to manage their needs, and is based on the individual’s beliefs, values, culture, traditions, and practices.
Spiritual health care is available to patients, residents, their families and all health care staff.
Benefits of Spiritual Well-being on Overall Health
There are many benefits to health and well-being when spiritual needs are addressed.
Some benefits include:
- Increased ability to find meaning in the midst of illness, injury and trauma
- Increased ability to accept lived experience
- Increased ability to cope with pain, nausea and discomfort
- Improved sense of well-being
- Improved motivation to complete the tasks of healing
- Decreased feelings of anxiety, depression and anger
- Decreased feelings of loneliness
- Decreased alcohol and drug abuse
- Decreased use of invasive technology and life-prolonging treatment at end of life
- Greater use of palliative care at end of life
- Shorter hospital stays
- Increased patient satisfaction
Sometimes people are unable to find meaning or connect with their faith when they or someone they love is sick or injured. This can lead to people experiencing spiritual distress. Situations that may cause spiritual distress include:
- Waiting for a diagnosis
- Major or repeated setbacks in recovery
- Experiencing physical pain
- Having to make a difficult decision on behalf of a family member
- When someone feels a ritual of their faith or culture is needed
- Feeling exhausted or emotionally withdrawn from caring for the sick, injured or distressed
Indicators of Spiritual Distress
Individuals experiencing spiritual distress may ask questions or make comments, such as:
- “Why is this happening to me?”
- “Why has God let this happen?”
- “What’s my purpose now?”
- “This is not fair.”
- “I’m scared.”
- “I don’t know how I’m going to cope.”
If you or someone you care for is experiencing spiritual distress, ask your health care provider for a referral to Spiritual Health or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spiritual Health Care Services at Fraser Health
Spiritual health may be attended to in a variety of ways by the interprofessional care team.
Spiritual health professionals are members of the care team and are trained to provide comprehensive spiritual health care and emotional support to patients, families and health care staff.
Spiritual health professionals:
- Support the cultural, emotional and spiritual needs of patients, families and health care staff
- Provide comprehensive spiritual health and emotional support services
- Consult with staff and physicians on spiritual and religious care matters
- Liaise with spiritual/religious/cultural groups in the community to facilitate the provision of rites, rituals and services
- Partner with Aboriginal/Indigenous Health programs
- Participate in clinical ethics discussions
- Increase health care provider resiliency and wellness through support during and after disaster situations and critical incidents
If you think a spiritual health professional can help you or someone you care for, contact your health care provider or email@example.com.
Spiritual Community Visitors at Fraser Health
Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices can play an important role in the spiritual health of many people.
Spiritual community visitors are leaders and volunteers from spiritual or religious communities in the Fraser Health region and who are available and on-call to provide spiritual support for patients, residents, clients and their families who come from their spiritual tradition and are in Fraser Health facilities. These visitors complete a registration process with Fraser Health that includes a background check and site orientation.
Those who register as spiritual community visitors agree to be on call and available to be contacted by care teams at specific care facilities for two-month periods. A confidential database providing the contact information of active spiritual community visitors is available on Fraser Health’s internal website for care teams to access when patients/clients/residents are in need of this specific type of spiritual health support.
If you would like to register as a spiritual community visitor at Fraser Health or for more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.