How many people were at church with you on Sunday? Without a doubt someone in your church congregation was dealing with a mental health problem. Research shows that in an average week 1 in 6 people experience a common mental health problem1. This figure is likely to increase in 2023, given the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and the myriad other pressures of modern life that can impact good mental health and wellbeing.
You’ll likely already be keenly aware of the scale of the mental health crisis - on your church community, on young people, on those who are already vulnerable due to poverty, ill-health or unstable relationships. You’re likely to have friends and family who have experienced mental ill-health and you may even have experienced this yourself.
We’ve been hearing for years how NHS provision is significantly over-stretched, particularly in mental health support. Waiting lists for assessments and therapeutic support are at an all-time high and many people who do not have the means to access private therapy are without vital care.
Many of us are left thinking that the Church should do something. As the Church we are well placed to offer support with our strong community links, our heart to love, physical space and resources and connections to communities that are less reached by state-provision. Our faith compels us to extend hospitality, generosity and love to anyone in need in, both within and beyond, our community. So how can we extend this love effectively and sustainably? Should churches be supporting good mental health? Can we proactively support and complement NHS provision?
We recognise that these questions can feel overwhelming. At ChurchWorks for Wellbeing, we want to explore the role of the church in mental health and to enable you to develop clear and simple next steps. Here are three reasons why we would love you to join us on 18th May:
- Engage in a uniquely influential space. The ChurchWorks Commission exists to bring 15 major UK Christian denominations into conversation with the government to collaborate on urgent social issues in our local communities, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable. With this background, ChurchWorks for Wellbeing will convene perspectives from theology, ministry, policy, research and healthcare. To help us explore these we’ll be joined by Pastor Agu Irukwu, Pastor Glyn Barret, Bishop Sarah of London, and others. This is an opportunity to be part of this unique conversation space that is backed by significant church and government leaders.
- Get Connected with hundreds of other church and ministry leaders from around the country who are seeking to practically respond to the mental health crisis. Be encouraged by the experiences of communities who have collaborated with the NHS through social prescribing, invested in relationships through contemporary chaplaincy, and seen change in their communities through providing high quality courses. This is an opportunity to share your learning, ask questions from others who understand your context and find solidarity in our Church.
- Be Equipped to return home with tools to enable you to respond to the mental health crisis. We know it can be overwhelming to know where to start with mental health, so we’re sharing some high-quality, expertly-informed options with you. We will be joined by Corin Pilling, CEO of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries, Julie Keir, Wellbeing Lead for !Audacious Wellbeing, Dr Keith Foster, Head of Faculty for Applied Theology at Waverley Abbey and local church leaders who have engaged in social prescribing. Not only will you hear stories of courses and training that are on offer, you will have the opportunity to try these out in our ‘taster sessions’ before you return home.
We’re excited by a world in which the local church is a space where those with common mental health challenges are heard and supported, where quality teaching and equipping takes place to enable people to increase their mental resilience, and where those who are lonely and in need of connection are welcomed and loved. If you’re excited by this too please join us on 18th May at Westminster Chapel. Whether you're a church leader, a ministry leader, or a keen congregant, we would love to have you.
A church equipped to promote and support good mental health can have a profoundly transformative impact on our communities and our country. Join us at the ChurchWorks for Wellbeing Conference on Thursday 18th May to find out how you can play your part.
- McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf