“No Health without Mental Health”

Lent, the period before Easter, is a time for personal reflection and, for some, self-denial to intensify this. St George’s Church strives to put on a study course each year during this period to help with the reflection part. The focus has varied over the years e.g. grief and loss last year. The course is usually guided by the clergy and lay people from the congregation. The courses provide opportunity to focus on a subject matter with the aim to help us develop a way of understanding and being that reflects our Christian faith in particular but is relevant to any person of other faiths or to who profess to have no faith.

This year’s offering reflects the increasing interest in mental health and mental illness in the media and the community. It seems strange that we need to be directed to take note of what makes us human. Our mind is the repository of our experiences, emotions, thinking and behaviour. Our personality, who we are, how we live and relate to others are reflections of these. The mind gets ill sometime: we know this because one in four of us will suffer a significant mental illness in our own lifetime. Yet there is a tendency to fear mental illness; many seeing it a personal flaw. People tend to categorise others as being part of a group and then form an opinion of that group. Societies all over the world have experienced negativity towards that “group” of people with mental illness. Members of that “group” have been made to feel shame and isolation and, for many, this has resulted in reduced income and poverty.

Yet we are more likely to discuss our physical health plans (diets, weight and exercise, physical illness) than we are to talk about how we dealt with sadness, loss, stress and mental illness. The stigma of mental illness remains powerful though many have sought to reduce it. “Every family in the land” was the Royal College of Psychiatrists campaign in 2000 under the banner “Changing Minds”. Its aim was to reduce stigma by pointing out that every family in the UK will have at least one member who has suffered or will suffer from mental illness. I am not sure how effective it was. For me, the most effective intervention was by Norman Lamb, Minister of Health in the Coalition Government, who campaigned and got a commitment for funding on the basis of parity of esteem between mental illness and physical illness. No one argued against that: it was so obvious! But the sad fact is that this is yet to be achieved despite Prime Minister after Prime Minister promising to deliver on this.

St George’s Lent course has modest aims: increase awareness of mental health and mental illness, reduce stigma of mental illness and help us understand how we can take care of ourselves and others with kindness and compassion.

There will be six sessions:  each 90 minutes long with comfort breaks. All held in the St George’s Church Hall. Start at 7.30pm. You can come to any or all. No need to sign up-just turn up on the evening. https://stgeorgesjesmond.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Lent-Course-poster-Portrait-copy-3-p.pdf

See you there!