Church Breaks Silence On Mental Health Concerns

The Methodist Church in Britain is seeking to offer help with the often hidden mental health issues and problems faced within society at large – and not least within the churches. Its concern is for carers as well as suffers.

Within every church there will be people who have mental health problems or have experienced them in the past, as well as people who are affected as family, friends or carers, Methodists acknolwedged at their recent annual conference.

Churches strive to understand these pressures, but don’t always know how to support those affected by them, as spokesperson explained. A practical new Methodist leaflet is encouraging churches to be aware of the signs of mental health problems and to provide care and support.

‘Out of Solitary Places’ uses case studies to highlight the ways in which churches can make a real difference to those suffering from mental health problems through care and friendship.

The Rev Michaela Youngson, Secretary for Pastoral Care and Spirituality, explained: “You don’t need to be a doctor to recognize that someone is struggling; there’s so much that we can do to provide practical help and encouragement and to promote good mental health and wellbeing.”

She continued: “Churches frequently have contact with people facing crises or major life changes that can trigger mental health problems, but often don’t know how to respond to this need. This is an issue for all of us and we need to challenge the stigma associated with these problems.”

‘Out of Solitary Places’ also highlights the need for churches to be a welcoming, safe place for people of all backgrounds and to establish links with local mental health services. It encourages people to find out more about current issues in mental health policy and funding and to campaign for positive change.

The leaflet gives links to web-based resources and support organizations for people suffering from mental health problems and those who support them. A new training resource from the Methodist Church, ‘Encircled in Care’, aimed at those involved in pastoral care in the church and community, will be available from September 2007 and contains a module on mental health.

The new leaflet was launched at the Beckley Lecture at the Methodist Conference. The subject of the lecture was ‘Valuing Mental Health: A matter of concern, hope and inspiration’.

Malcolm Rae, CBE, FRCN, of the National Institute for Mental Health spoke about contemporary concerns and ethical dilemmas in mental health policy and practice and the role of faith and spirituality in sustaining recovery.

The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian churches serving Britain as a whole, with nearly 300,000 members and regular contact with over 800,000 people. It has about 5,800 churches, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.