Starting in April and running monthly till July, we supported a series of mental health awareness workshops in the diocese. These were run by ‘Welcome Me as I Am,’ which raises awareness around mental health problems, and looks at responses that can be made at a parish community level. In particular, these sessions focused on the spiritual needs of those with mental illness, and how they might be addressed. The workshops were put on in partnership with Mind UK, and at each workshop a local representative gave a presentation on mental health and local services, and on ways to stay mentally healthy.
The church community is ideally placed to support those suffering mental illness, offering community and a listening ear, but also support in accessing services. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan noticed first that someone was in need of help, whom others ignored or were afraid of. He then assessed the person’s needs, and as he was unable to care for him directly, took him somewhere that could, and then maintained contact by checking in on him. As a model for church involvement, there is much to be learned here.
‘Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level.’
Pope Benedict. Deus caritas est.
Participants at the workshops discussed many ways of reaching out in a parish community. Some of the key themes were as follow:
- Strengthen or start a parish welcome ministry. It is important that we know our community, so that we can see if someone is new, someone has been missing for a few weeks, or someone is not their normal self, and respond appropriately.
- Have coffee after mass and coffee mornings during the week. Enhance the social life of the parish. Give opportunities for people to belong to the parish community, and find support in each other.
- Listen actively. Learn about helping those with mental health problems. Attend a course, or arrange one for your parish.
- Be aware of the spiritual needs of the individual, and how to approach these.
- Ensure that parish resources (befriending, counselling, welcoming groups, parish groups etc.) are well publicised and that signposting to support is available.
- Help with accessing support. Often visiting the GP is the first step.
- Look after your own mental health too. Looking after others can be difficult and stressful.
If you would like further information on these points, or support in implementing them in your parish, please get in contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Workshop resource links:
Catholic Mental Health Project – An extensive online resource with links to supporting services, as well as examples of successful projects run in a parish setting. Grants are currently available for parish projects.
Welcome Me as I Am – Resources available for groups looking at mental health issues, and how people with mental health needs can be welcomed and included. The resources were developed by Ben Banos, who led these workshops. Please get in contact if you would like something similar for your parish.
Mind UK – find your local group. Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding, and are active across England and Wales.
5 Ways to wellbeing – simple steps you can take to improve your own mental wellbeing.