Welcome, inclusion, safety. Responding to mental health issues in the parish

Jim McManus

How can churches respond pastorally to people with mental health conditions? Jim McManus is Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire and Vice-Chair of the Healthcare Executive Group for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The first of the two articles in this series focused on trying to understand some pointers for a theological and ecclesiological response to mental health in light of what current sciences tell us about its nature. Mental health is not just about services, it’s about creating a culture and environment where people can be as well as possible, and finding ways of supporting people. A social, not just an individual response, is needed.

The fact is, however, that churches, chaplains and parishes will encounter people with a variety of mental health needs as a matter of course. One in six adults in the UK will have what is called a common mental health ‘disorder’ such as anxiety or depression1. Most of us will experience grief, or stress at some point in our lives, sometimes repeatedly. How we recover from these is not just about individual resilience but about the care, support and welcome we receive from others.

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