Is it a spiritual experience or mental illness?

Shawn Lucas and Gursharan Virdee from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto have created a tool to help clinicians and patients answer what can be a difficult question: What is a spiritual experience … and what’s mental illness?
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Shawn Lucas calls it a transcendental assessment tool.

Lucas is the manager of Spiritual Care at CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. The new comparison tool is designed to help clinicians answer a difficult question: What is a spiritual experience … and what's mental illness?

We're hoping this tool will help … to differentiate between what is a delusion as part of psychosis and what might also be part of a transcendent experience, or what William James called a mystical experience.- Shawn Lucas, manager of Spiritual Care at Toronto's CAMH

His goal is to see if it's possible to "hold onto what is mystical or transcendent, while also dealing with what is illness."

 Lucas says it can be difficult to discern between the two, particularly because a spiritual experience may occur on its own or within a mental health crisis.

Gursharan Virdee, a psychologist and research analyst, believes there needs to be stronger recognition of the role religion plays in patients' lives.

"When I think of religion, I think of an individual and a kind of community identity, and whilst we're making steps moving forward in the mental health sector, that spiritual piece is massively missing," said Virdee.

This year, CAMH will be testing the tool as part of a pilot project.

Shawn Lucas and Gursharan Virdee (CAMH)

Click LISTEN to hear Tapestry producer Jeff Goodes ask Gursharan Virdee and Shawn Lucas about their own spiritual experiences. 

This segment originally aired March 6, 2016. 

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