Welcome Me as I Am - Understanding Mental Health Needs in our Parish and Deanery Community
“It has been a privilege to work with Parishes, Deaneries and Chaplaincies and as well as with Councils of Churches in the important task of raising awareness of mental health and dementia issues and how they can be communities of understanding and welcome for those with mental health needs”
Ben Bano, Director of 'Welcome Me as I Am' - a not-for-profit Community Interest Company promoting mental health awareness in Faith Communities and in the wider community.
Just as in many other places it can be hard to raise the issue of mental health in our parish and deanery communities. And yet one in four of us are likely to consult our doctor in connection with a mental health related problem. ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ seeks to address these issues through a resource pack to facilitate discussions on a number of key issues relating to mental health and dementia. Each pack contains material for up to five discussion sessions or a half day workshop on mental health awareness to the need to consider our ministry and outreach to carers. Here are practical suggestions for what parishes and deaneries can to address these issues following their discussions. You can download the pack from this website and you will find also on this website details of training workshops, forthcoming events as well as a resource: 'Words of Confidence and Hope'. (Please note: as the pack was produced in 2011, some of the resources may have changed)
‘I found the experience of talking about mental health very difficult when I talked about my experience with other parishioners over coffee. I felt people around me didn’t know what to say. It’s so much easier to talk about someone suffering from a physical illness, but when it comes to mental illness, people seemed embarrassed to talk about it – I felt that I just couldn’t share my feelings. And yet people came up to me privately afterwards to talk about their own experiences of mental distress. My question is – ‘How can we make mental health an OK subject to talk about?’
‘Stephen’s story’ – in ‘Caring about Carers’
The underpinning theme of ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ is that of hope - a central tenet of the Christian message. In the programme we explore the recovery model in mental health in relation to the ‘journey of hope’ for those suffering mental distress.
- The programme over the last three years has consisted of:
- Developing and implementing a toolkit for facilitators looking at mental health issues and how people with mental health needs can be welcomed and included
- A series of Diocesan based workshops using a 'training the trainers' approach
- A series of workshops for members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
- A series of nationally based workshops on specialist issues – see details on Events
Some feedback following a workshop attended by over 50 priests and deacons.
‘Many thanks for coming up to our Diocese, and giving so much of your energy and time – the day was well received, and you have sown a lot of seeds!’
Feedback following a workshop for 25 members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul
‘Just a note to thank you for an excellent presentation and question and answer session yesterday’
At the core of the programme is the toolkit: ‘Welcome Me as I Am. This has been developed and written by Ben Bano, Director of Telos Training, Professor Peter Gilbert, Emeritus Professor of Spirituality at Staffordshire University, and Peter Bates of the National Development Team for Inclusion. Many of those who have experienced mental distress and who have been caregivers have contributed their thoughts and experiences. Click here for a sample module - The Journey of Hope'
‘I think if Christ was walking this earth today, He would be with people with mental health problems and their families. He has our hands and our feet. So I hope that in raising awareness about the silent suffering that goes on behind four walls, there will be more understanding, acceptance, compassion, and support, so that on the Day of Judgment Christ can say, ‘Come you blessed of my Father. When you did this to one of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40).‘
Edna Hunneysett: Contributor to ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ and author of ‘Our Suicidal Teenagers’
‘At the heart of all things is our relationship with God and our openness to the Good News of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. We are prompted by the Holy Spirit to be bearers of that Good News. The more our parish communities, our dioceses, deaneries and schools, are places where we are the fullness of life is manifested, the more we shall be responding to the Call of the Gospel.
I am pleased to encourage the use of these resources, as one way in which parish communities can respond to the needs of those who live with difficulties in mental health, to recognise the gifts with which each one is endowed by God, that all may work together for the building of God’s Kingdom.‘
Bishop Richard Moth
Chair, Mental Health Reference Group,
Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
As we enter our fourth year of operation in 2015 we are expanding our activities, including:
- Delivery of workshops on mental capacity, mental health and dementia for religious communities
- Continuation of our workshop programme – ‘Our Church as a Dementia Friendly Church’.
- Provision of advice and expertise in taking forward awareness of mental health and dementia issues in Faith Communities
A discussion group in progress.
Some feedback from the organiser of a recent evening training event involving six parishes:
'I have had some very good feedback about the Tuesday night event, which had 52 attendees, who all enjoyed and took something personally useful away with them. Also, importantly, they were allowed to contribute through your generous and inclusive style of presenting.'
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