At the opening of last weekend’s Mental Health Conference in Leeds, delegates were asked to think about having five meaningful conversations-a-day, in addition to their daily intake of five portions of fruit or vegetables.
Participants came from across the country to showcase the 11 mental health projects funded by Day for Life – the day dedicated to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. The Bishop for Mental Health, Richard Moth, chaired the 24-hour conference, together with the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer.
It was a rollercoaster showcase tour beginning with a preview of ‘Voices Unheard’ – Travellers in Prison – a disarmingly honest and often tragic portray of the mental health issues affecting one of the most marginalised groups within British prisons. Moving onto Shrewsbury, where 14 healing Masses have taken place in the Diocese and mental health support groups have been established. Then onto Nuneaton, where a young Mental Health nurse has set up the ‘St Dymphna Befriending Group’ – bringing together a group of volunteers from ‘Our Lady of the Angels’ in Nuneaton, many of whom have a personal or caring experience of mental health. The project aims to support all those in the Rugby deanery who experience mental distress – anxiety, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress and personality disorders. It is now applying for charitable status; seeking further funding, joining together with the SVP, training more volunteers and hoping to collaborate with ecumenical mental health groups.
The ‘Support Group for Women Sanctuary Seekers and their Children’ provides friendship and acceptance for women sanctuary seekers in Liverpool. It supports the most marginalised in our community.
‘Parents mentoring’ in Milton Keynes – works directly with parents who are struggling with their children. It aims to help mums and dads understand why their child might be behaving in a certain way and to be ever more attentive to what life is really like for their son or daughter. It does this through 1:1 work; counselling, themed workshops and group mentoring.
‘Delivering Music for Older People with Mental Health Problems’ delivers cost effective spiritual music volunteers from a variety of Christian and non-Christian community groups in each of the Mental Health Services for Older People units across Hertfordshire.
‘Mindfulness in schools’ aims to offer students opportunities to learn how to choose the way one thinks, feels and acts when faced with situations that cause stress, anxiety and depression.
‘Stressed Out!’ Catholic Young People in England and Wales: A Study in Stress and Mental Health Issues and a Toolkit in Response aims to build the capacity for diocesan youth services, youth organisations and movements to understand and respond appropriately to the mental health issues relevant to Catholic young people today.
The ‘Emotional Wellbeing Project’ with People who are homeless provides basic advice to clients on preventative measure to assist them to stay well. It is run by the Passage – the centre for homeless people.
‘Meeting Mental Health Needs in our Parish and Deanery Community’ aims to develop and deliver a series of diocese or deanery based mental health workshops, using a ‘training the trainers’ approach.
Finally, the ‘Annual Day of Prayer for Dementia and Annual Day of Prayer for World Mental Health Day’ aims to raise awareness of the spiritual needs of the frail, elderly and those with dementia, through the Day of Prayer.
The Bishop for Mental Health, Richard Moth, brought the Conference to a close by speaking of how we see the Church at its very best when it is serving:
“The Authority of the Church is the Authority of Service,” said Bishop Moth. “This project is about service and we have to keep a tight grasp on that.”
Delegates at the Mental Health Conference included chaplains, doctors, mental health practitioners, carers, parishioners, the Union of Catholic Mothers, the St John of God Hospitaliers and representatives from family life ministries.
The Bishops’ Conference Mental Health project office was established in 2010. It has disseminated £70,000 in mental health grants to 11 parish; diocesan and school-based projects. The aim of the Conference was to showcase the 11 projects and look towards future ways of working and sharing best practice.
Photos from the Conference
The Bishops’ Conference Mental Health Project