Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 189

What King Charles III Said About Religion That Resonates with Psychiatry

Do no religious-based harm.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

In England, as perhaps some of us are learning from the Queen’s death, there is no separation of church and state as there is in the United States. The Christian Anglican Church is the established Church of England, meaning that there is a formal relationship between church and state in which it operates. Its role has been prominent during this period of national mourning.

For Charles III, that means he is now defender of the faith, which dates back to the 1530s and Henry VIII, with an ensuing history of benefits and harms. Charles at different prior times has emphasized one faith, but sometimes also other faiths. In his recent inaugural address, he seemed to sound the theme of spiritual inclusion in his new role:

“Particular relationship and responsibility toward the Church of England—the Church in which my own faith is so deeply rooted” and pledged that “whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavor to serve you with loyalty, respect and love.”

How well King Charles carries that out, time will tell.

Around the turn of the new millennium, the Royal College of Psychiatrists established a Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group to appreciate the influence of spirituality and religion in mental health and patient care in the United Kingdom.

Likewise, in recent decades, psychiatry in the United States has also paid increased attention to the influence of spirituality and formal religions. Like the challenge for King Charles, the basic recommendation is to assess what any faith might mean to an individual patient and to watch for any countertransference reactions which might unduly stem from the clinician’s own faith preferences.

Moreover, even though there is official separation of church and state in the United States, the influence of a given religion varies with size and other political factors. Discrimination has increased recently in the form of anti-Semitism towards those of the Jewish faith and Islamophobia towards those of the Islamic faith. To help address such adverse mental health repercussions, colleagues of various faiths and I labored to learn from each other in order to recently produce a scholarly and practical trilogy of books on psychiatry and these 3 faiths.1-3 Psychiatry still needs one that will focus on Hinduism and other Eastern religions.

As we discussed in the column, “An Oath of Lifelong Psychiatric Service,” let us join King Charles III in recognizing, understanding, and incorporating how religious and spiritual beliefs can potentially be of benefit for us all. Applying that to our Hippocratic oath might convey: do no religious-based harm of omission or commission.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

References

1. Moffic HS, Peteet J, Hankir A, Awaad R, eds. Islamophobia and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention, and Treatment. Springer; 2019.

2. Moffic, HS, Peteet J, Hankir A, Seeman M, eds. Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention, and Interventions. Springer; 2020.

3. Peteet J, Moffic HS, Hankir A, Koenig H, eds. Christianity and Psychiatry. Springer; 2021.