Why ignoring mental health issues isn’t an option

Mental health has been in the news again, and it’s fantastic that Princes William and Harry are using their influence to help make the issue something that it’s okay to talk about. On the more negative side, Christian news website Premier recently reported on an alarming discovery by mental health charity Mind. A Freedom of Information request has revealed that one in ten people who had been in hospital because of mental health problems did not receive a follow-up appointment within a week of discharge, as should be the case. This could have devastating consequences, as Mind found that people who did not receive their follow-up appointments were twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who received them within a week.

The article calls for the Church and community to step in, by calling or visiting people who have recently been discharged from hospital, and praying for them and for the NHS. It’s great to have the role of (at least part of) the faith sector highlighted in this way – but in fact we at FaithAction know that there is a huge amount that faith communities are already doing to help support people facing mental health issues.

You can find out more on our Friendly Places pages, which include tips for faith groups on being more ‘mental health friendly’, and case studies of groups who’ve already taken action in this area. And if you’re interested in how faith-based organisations are helping support people when they come out of hospital, have a look at our report, Keeping Pressure Off Hospitals.

If you’re a regular reader, you might remember that we are working with Mind on a project to help forge links at a local level between faith groups and Mind branches. The aim is to raise awareness about mental health among faith groups, as well as to raise awareness among mental health workers that faith and spirituality can be assets for – rather than barriers to – accessing excellent care and support. The project will also create some new, much-needed resources on mental health and faith.

One of the partnerships involved is between the Hope Centre and St Helens Mind, in Merseyside. Next week – on 27 April – the two are running a conference together, called Faith to Talk. Aimed at faith leaders and Mind volunteers, the day will draw attention to the fact that leaders are likely to have people in their congregations who are dealing with mental health issues. It will emphasise that this shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, because people of faith are not exempt from mental health problems, just as they aren’t exempt from physical illness – but as with physical health, their faith can play a part in their recovery. And of course, it is far better for them to have someone walk alongside them on their journey than for them to have to be alone.

By making leaders more aware of symptoms of mental health difficulties, and giving them the confidence to have conversations with people rather than sweeping issues under the carpet, the day aims to inspire and equip faith leaders to walk alongside people on their journey to mental health. The event will include stories from people who have lived experience of mental health issues, and information on how to support people experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, and how to signpost or refer them to other services.

The Hope Centre and St Helens Mind have also produced a booklet to accompany the event, written with mental health professionals, which helps to highlight what the Bible has to say about mental health. It also includes websites of local and national organisations that can help. If you would like to find out more about this or the event on the 27th, email Angela Metcalfe: angela@hopecentre.org.uk

 

About Rodie Garland

Rodie Garland

Rodie is FaithAction’s Policy and Programme Officer. She leads on parts of FaithAction’s programme of work for the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England – especially on our Faith and Public Health research and on Friendly Places. She also works on our FaithLab initiative to collect evidence of good and innovative practice from faith groups in addressing social problems.