Born: seventh century
Died: seventh century
FEast: May 15th
Depression, anxiety, runaways, incest
Dymphna was born in Ireland sometime in the 7th century to a royal pagan father and a secretly Christian mother. Her mother also raised Dymphna to be a Christian in secret. By the time she was 14, Dymphna had decided she wanted to live a celibate life for her faith - but not long after, her mother passed away.
Her father had loved his wife dearly and soon began to suffer from a variety of mental illnesses. To try and help their king, his advisors suggested he remarry. He agreed, but only on the terms that the woman was as beautiful as his wife had been. As the search continued on and on without success, he began to lust after his own daughter who resembled her mother.
Dymphna, horrified by her father's proposal of marriage, fled her home with her priest and several loyal servants. They settled in what is now Belgium, and Dymphna was happy for a time as she used her wealth to care for the impoverished and sick people of the town.
Dymphna's generosity, including building a hospice, proved to be her end, however. Her father and his assistants were able to trace some of the coins she was using and they found the group in Belgium. Her father ordered the priest's decapitation while he tried to talk Dymphna into coming home with him and accepting marriage. Dymphna still refused, and in anger, her father cut off her head with his sword. She was only 15 years old.
Members of the town who had grown to love her buried the bodies in a nearby cave until a church was built there. People came from all over seeking healing not from physical problems like usual, but seeking mental health and healing. The town still welcomes pilgrims into their homes today.
wHAT wOULD sHE CARE ABOUT TODAY?
"No Unlikely Saints" - a pilgrimage with saints who struggled with mental health
As patron of mental illness, you show us that we are not “faithless” or “broken” to suffer from these diseases. You show us that Christianity does not “solve” these problems - we are not wrong for still suffering. You, and so many other saints battled these natural, debilitating, and very real conditions. Be with those of us who suffer these.
Dymphna, often pictured with a scarf around her head, still has a modern version here. She also wears a red necklace symbolizing her method of death, and has a semicolon tattoo which has been used as a symbol for continuing life rather than ending it - which is important for her mental health patronage. I also included a white lily, as she has been given the title "Lily of Eire".