The Archbishop of Canterbury has encouraged church leaders to explore collaborative ways of tackling the UK's mental health crisis as recent research revealed that 50 per cent of Britons face mental health challenges at least once a week.
Speaking at a mental health conference today organised by ChurchWorks Commission, Most Rev Justin Welby said church should be “a place where we're comfortable talking about mental health”.
“We all know that being a Christian doesn't mean we're all sorts of happy all the time,” he said. “Faith doesn't mean the absence of mental health challenges. But it does mean that there is comfort for us when we're experiencing hard times.”
Several Christian organisations came together to provide "clear and simple next steps" for church leaders to take action in supporting "better mental health, better well-being, and better health outcomes" in churches and communities.
Speaking to Premier, Jack Palmer-White, senior director of the Good Faith Partnership and one of the key organizers, said churches should work in tandem with the National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare entities to provide effective care.
“We need to be well informed. We need to understand how to break down stigma, and how to approach these things in a way that is, is helpful that doesn't lose what is authentic about the church's role in this but it’s also healthy in terms of ensuring that those who are coming into our churches seeking support are cared for with the best possible support,” he said.
Recognising the local impact and reach that churches have in their communities, the conference explored several ways to establish support systems within congregations. These included contemporary chaplaincy, church courses on well-being, connecting with social prescribing, and collaborating with various organisations that support mental health.
Palmer-White further stated: “Social prescribing is all about supporting people who might turn up at a GP surgery or somewhere else in the health system but what they need they're seeking can actually be best found within the community. And churches run so many things that fit the bill for that.
“We want to help people think about how do they connect with social prescribing link workers in their local area.”
Archbishop Justin concluded: “We need to be equipped to support people in church as well as working closely with mental health professionals. The pastoral and spiritual care of the church is not a substitute for the expertise of mental health professionals. But the gifts offered by spiritual and pastoral guidance, and just by the love of the church community, have a valuable role in our well being by bringing together cheer.”