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Pastoral Care and Mental Health

Monday 3rd August, 2015 @ 11:14 am

by Dorothy Mountford | tags: ,

Dorothy Mountford, of the pastoral team at St Peter’s church, explains why we should be concerned about mental health and what we can do about it

In early April St Peter’s Pastoral Team was pleased to welcome and work with Lorraine Smedley from All Saints’ church. Plans are afoot to provide some shared outings for lunch or the cinema for members of our communities.

Later in the month Rev James Saxon and Dorothy Mountford met with Sue, Anne and Rowena from Arnold Methodist Church and St Mary’s Arnold who had requested help in setting up a Mental Health Drop In Centre similar to the Wednesday Gateway Group at St Peter’s. James was able to share some of his extensive experiences as Chaplain at The Maudsley, one of the biggest psychiatric hospitals in Europe, a tour of the church and the St James’ room helped to give the visitors an idea of the facilities. We look forward to hearing more as their venture progresses and wish them God’s Blessing on all they do.

The link with the Arnold churches came through our involvement with the diocesan commitment to an initiative encouraging inclusivity in our churches for people with mental health problems. Here is the background.

Why the church is concerned about mental health :

• Justice for all- mental ill health accounts for 23% of the disability in the UK but only receives 11% of the NHS budget

• Over time one in four adults and one in ten children have mental health problems

• People with mental health problems experience stigma and discrimination

• The church has always been called to work with the marginalised in society

• Those with mental health problems often look to the church for support

How things got started:

In 2011, several clergy contacted Diocesan Officers to express concern about the lack of support for those with mental health problems and the impact of health and local authority cuts on support services. Following an open meeting ‘Opening Minds’ was established as a strategy group for the Diocese on mental health and learning disability issues. The membership includes those with lived experience, carers, clergy and mental health professionals.

How we can help as a parish:

• Get to know people with mental health problems as this is the best way to challenge misconceptions

• Talk openly about mental health

• Challenge myths about mental health i.e. mental illness and violence

• Use the gifts and abilities of those with mental health problems and learning disabilities. We all like to feel we have something to contribute as well as to receive support.

• Work for health and social justice. Challenge local and national policies which maintain discrimination against those with mental health problems.

‘Opening Minds’ was asked if they could provide mental health awareness training at a parish level. However current thinking is that it is better to support the expertise that already exists in the church communities, including those with lived experience of mental health difficulties. Opening Minds can offer training and information and enable the parish Awareness Guides to network together, exchange good ideas and to support one another.

Could you help? Does this sound like you or some one you know?
A mental health awareness guide is a person with a passion for the wellbeing of people with mental health problems and their carers. They are good at listening and relating to others and getting their trust and in communicating their concerns. They would have the support of the church leaders in this role.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) and Rev’d Chris Harrison have given their support for this role. Currently Dorothy Mountford from St Peter’s attends meetings and is liaising with other Awareness Guides.

The role of the mental health awareness guide is to ensure that our churches are welcoming, accepting, supportive and involve those with mental health problems including those in the wider community. S\he also signposts people who need help, advice and information. It would be beneficial if we could have a guide for each church, to form a team to share ideas within the parish and to help and support this initiative in our individual churches. The guides will have access to general information and people who could offer more specific advice and guidance. The role includes advocacy at the level of the local church but does not include counselling or direct mental health care. Guides will be able to inform the church community of training opportunities locally.

The aim is to start by linking the guides to Opening Minds to offer them training and support. The role is expected to evolve over time, with the guides contributing to that process. In that way it will be exciting, maybe challenging, but not difficult.

The Core Values for inclusion of people with Mental Health problems are that:

• People with mental health issues feel accepted and included

• We are equally responsive to the needs of people with mental and physical health issues

• Family and friends of people with mental health issues feel understood and find comfort

• Mental wellbeing is promoted

• Anyone with questions about mental health issues can be given help to find accurate information, support and guidance.

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