Taking time to change our attitude to mental health

Rev Elaine Jones (pictured) tells us about the work of the newly-established Liverpool Diocese Mental Health Network, and why it is encouraging churches to promote mental health awareness at their cafes or drop in sessions during the week of February 3rd.

What is the network is and who it is for?

It is a group of people, all connected to the Diocese of Liverpool, who have experience of mental ill-health.  This comes from working in this field, having close family or friends who have experienced it, or from their own personal experience.  We aim to raise awareness within churches and their associated ministries so that we can help reduce the stigma and discrimination that people who suffer with their mental health can sometimes experience.

We have a link with the Liverpool network which includes various health representatives and supports the national organisation Time to Change and we also connect with other dioceses.

What was the impetus behind starting the network?

Statistics show that one in four people will experience mental ill-health at one time or another.  However, it is not just the experience itself that can be potentially traumatic, it is also the knock-on effects, such as job loss, family breakdown or debt. 
Churches operate as places of safety and refuge to those who are most vulnerable in the world. We want to get people talking about their mental health in the same way that they do their physical health.

What have been the highlights so far?

We held a service at Liverpool Cathedral October 10th for World Mental Health Day, joined by guest speaker Rev Ron Iveson and people from the wider community.  We also hosted a one-woman play starring Revd Eva McIntyre, who is involved with the Church of England Mental Health Matters website.  She performed as several different characters from an aging choir member to a highly strung child.  This was really effective and helped to generate lots of conversation about how we address mental health in our churches.

How does the network provide practical help?

We are not an advice line as such as there are many professionals who are much better equipped than we are.  Our help comes through empowering churches to talk about mental health.  We can direct churches to various websites.  It is our hope that churches will join in the various initiatives that are being promoted by the network and Time to Change. 

What are you asking people to do during the week of 3rd February?

Lots of our churches have small cafes or offer tea and refreshments after services. What we propose is that during that week, churches place resources encouraging people to talk about mental health on tables in the cafe/coffee area.  The network will be accessing resources from Time to Change so if you would like to use some of these we will arrange a central collection point or you can download some of the resources from the Time to Change website

A good idea to promote conversation and get others involved is to ask members of your congregation to make cup cakes and ice them with different emotions. Some could be iced with a smiley face and some with a sad face; you don't need to be an expert to talk to people about their mental health.  If you visit the Time to Change website you'll see some great examples of this in their video clips.

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More Information

If your church is encouraging people to talk about mental health during the week of 3rd February, or you would like advice on what resources to use, please contact Rev Elaine Jones: lilyfield@live.co.uk 

Time to Change website