REV IAN MEREDITH: The church can offer non-religious mental health support

The vicar of St Mary's Church, Portchester on help through deeds, not words

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 10:27 am
Updated Thursday, 21st June 2018, 10:28 am
Prince Harry talking to runners taking part in the London Marathon for mental health charity Heads Together, which he founded Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

It seems an increasing number of us are experiencing mental health problems – one in four is the figure often used.

Prince Harry bravely highlighted this problem when he spoke of his own feelings after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

The causes of the increase in these illnesses are many and controversial, but the breakdown of family life and community, as well as a neglect of the soul may all be contributing factors.

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As a former psychiatric nurse, I’ve continued my interest in mental health into my ministry. Not that I provide psychiatric advice for members of my congregation!

But I’m on the board of trustees of the Moving On Project which provides support for young people, and I’m a volunteer with a national mental health charity, the Richmond Fellowship, providing support for the over-18s.

Sadly, there seems to be a lack of NHS funding and provision in this area. Support is hard to find and waiting lists are prohibitive. At best a limited period of counselling is offered, and then folk have to just sink or swim.

Mental illness can range from slight anxiety or depression which may be temporary while circumstances are being sorted out, to the more serious and permanent illnesses.

Increasingly the churches and voluntary section are being asked to help. We can’t offer psychiatric diagnosis or professional help, but we can offer befriending, listening peer support. This, along with medication or therapy, can help provide a positive network for mental health sufferers.

In connection with the Richmond Fellowship, St Mary’s Church in Portchester is helping to sponsor a support group. This will meet on Mondays during the day time at Portchester Library.

The group’s programme will be based on creativity, seeking to develop our gifts of writing, painting, photography and any other needs around what the clients want. In the future we will put on walking and cooking.

The group will not be religious and so those of any faith or none are welcome to attend. There won’t be any preaching. We think the best way to share our faith in these circumstances is by deed rather than word.

Mind you, some interesting spiritual conversations can happen.

If interested, contact me in confidence, or Wendy at the parish office on (023) 9232 1380.

St Mary’s Church is in the grounds of Portchester Castle, Church Road, Portchester.

Call (023) 9232 1380 and stmary-portchester.org.uk.