CHURCHES must listen to the NHS, spiritual directors, school chaplains, and sufferers, to address the mental-health crisis among young people, the elderly, and the dying, an ecumenical conference has concluded.
A group of 15 Roman Catholic, Anglican, Quaker, URC, and Free Church ministers met health professionals and charities in London on Monday, to discuss the future of mental-health care in the UK. The round table was organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, after the bishops agreed to sign the Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health, last year.
The RC Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, the Rt Revd Richard Moth, lead bishop for the Catholic Mental Health Project, explained: “There are so many needs in the field of mental health, and it is vital for all Christian communities to respond to the needs of so many in our society who seek wholeness and true balance in their lives.
“The round table was a fruitful and timely opportunity for us all to discuss future possibilities. It was a positive first step into an ongoing conversation about how faith and spirituality can play an important role in our well-being.”
The discussion centred around a background paper, Christian Churches and their Contributions to Good Mental Health, by Professor Jim McManus, vice-president of the Association of Directors of Public Health and director of public health for Hertfordshire Council.
He said on Tuesday: “Faith is important in good mental health, and there is strong scientific evidence for this. But we have had to overcome significant stigma about faith in some mental-health settings, and significant stigma about mental health in some faith settings. There is a hunger from churches for information, skills, and resources on mental health, and lots of work going on, but we do not always know what to do, or what our role is.”
The group, which included representatives from FaithAction, the Association of Christian Counsellors, and the Catholic Mental Health Project, also discussed the problem of loneliness among the elderly and the dying, including in hospitals.
“The Art of Dying Well [website] has been a hugely successful intervention,” Professor McManus said. “One of the solutions to a world struggling with mental health is the Christian offer of ‘the art of living well’. And for us, as Christians, that means living in balance with God, ourselves, each other, and the world.”
It was agreed that, besides developing a coalition on mental health, a theological paper was needed on what the physically, psychologically, spiritually healthy person looked like, drawing on Benedictine models for mental health and balanced lifestyle.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of his background paper.
A day of recollection for mental-health professionals is to be held at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, London, on 12 January. For more information and booking, email Stephanie.MacGillivray@cbcew.org.uk.