Patroness of people suffering from mental and neurological disorders
Feast Day: May 15
St Dymphna has a special place in my heart. When I converted to Catholicism in 2014, I chose St. Dymphna as my Confirmation saint. At the time, I was working on my master’s degree in School Psychology, as well as dealing with lifelong anxiety of my own.
Born in 7th century Ireland to a pagan king and Christian mother, St. Dymphna was secretly baptized and became a devout Christian at a young age. When her mother died, her father wanted to remarry, but only if he found someone as beautiful as his former wife. When no one was found who met his image, he decided to marry Dymphna (gross, right?).
Not surprisingly, Dymphna didn’t like the idea of marrying her dad. She ran away from his castle with her confessor, (now St) Gerebran, and a two or three others. They hid in Geel, Belgium but her father eventually found them. He beheaded Dymphna and Gerebran. The townspeople placed their remains in a cave and a church was built honoring her in the 1300s.
Geel has become known for its exceptional treatment of those with mental illnesses. People are not treated as patients in a psychiatric facility, but rather invited into people's homes as guests. This type of treatment focuses on the dignity of the individual and society's role in the care of the most vulnerable.