Churches can provide mental health friendly communities

Published on: 1 September 2017

Emilie Ruddick, mental health professional in North Norfolk explains how churches are stepping up to support their local communities.

It would be hard to escape all mention of mental health in the media these days, with the Royals opening up about their experiences, reported cases of mental ill health on the rise across all generations in this country and political calls for further support surrounding the topic. So where does that leave churches? Should they get involved or leave it to mental health support services?

Simon Fenn, Cromer Church, Community Champion for the Wellbeing Service says:

“With churches at the front line in our communities and with most of us, if not all of us, personally struggling or knowing of someone who has struggled with emotional health in recent years, there has never been a more critical time for Christians to rise up and start engaging with the topic of mental health.”

Over the past few months, organisations supporting people with their mental health and a number of North Norfolk churches have started working together to equip, encourage and train pastoral teams in understanding and supporting those in their communities who are experiencing mental ill health.

With churches identified as being in a unique position, at the heart of many communities, and serving and reaching people from all walks of life, there are a number of ways in which they can start to engage with the topic of mental health.

Speak up

Just as we all have ‘physical health’ we also all have ‘mental health’ and reducing stigma and shame surrounding mental health in churches is essential in creating a safe place for people to start the journey of recovery with the support of their Christian community. Encouraging honest conversations about emotional and mental health, inviting people to share their experiences at the front of church or in small groups and including mental ill health in general prayers are all examples of talking openly about this topic and starting to shift the atmosphere.

Educate yourself

Seeking training opportunities and equipping those who have a heart to serve those who are hurting can provide tools for effective support within the church community. Mental Health First Aid training or Community Champion training are just some courses available in Norfolk.

Support others

It can be really difficult to ask for help for a variety of reasons. Respecting this and consequentially honouring the step of those asking for help with empathy and non-judgemental listening is something we can all do. Very practically, supporting someone with self-referrals or transport to appointments are just small examples of getting alongside people which can make all the difference when it comes to recovery.

Personally, I am really encouraged by the work that the Wellbeing Service and churches are starting to do within North Norfolk, motivated by the vision for churches to become a refuge for all and creating mental health friendly communities.

If you would like the receive Community Champion training contact Emilie Ruddick at rzvyvr.ehqqvpx@afsg.pb.hx

This article is from...

Articles in this issue...

Rest – Enjoy – Pray

As I write this I have recently returned from a General Synod meeting in York. We go to York each year in early July, meeting and staying on York University campus; it is a delightful setting and usually the atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed and friendly than when we meet in the business-like atmosphere of Church House in London.


The battle on the front line of mental health service funding

I am often asked from where my interest in mental health stems, and partly it is born out of personal experience. I had postnatal depression and, although not severe in comparison to others, it was enough to make me aware.


Championing Mental Health at Norwich Cathedral

Andy Bryant explores the way the Cathedral is helping those struggling with their mental health.


Mental health first aid

As a volunteer with North Breckland Youth for Christ I work with a variety of young people in school lunch clubs, youth cafés and other events. Over the years I’ve seen young people struggling with their emotions and mental wellbeing for reasons such as bullying, bereavement, and family breakdown.


I would stop at nothing to end everything

Ten per cent of children and young people (ages 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem yet 70 per cent of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age*. Norfolk teenager Hannah Green share her story of how her faith has helped.


Wellbeing in church schools

Working in our church schools is a real privilege. It is so rewarding to see children develop, acquire new skills and interests and make great progress during their formative years.


Priest in the night

Dialling 999 here gets you in touch with our police, ambulance or fire services. There is a very different approach in Sweden. Phone their national emergency number 112 at night-time and you are also given the option to speak to a priest on duty from the Church of Sweden. Canon pastor of the cathedral of Stockholm, Ulf Lindgren, has spent many nights on the helpline.


Recovering friendly church – join the conversation

The Revd Patrick Jordan extends an invitation to join a new network in the diocese discovering how we can practically approach the issue of mental health illness and wellbeing in our local communities.


Hearing Voices – sharing experiences of struggles with mental health

Hearing Voices is a forum organised between Norwich cathedral with the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust where people can come and share their struggles with mental health.


After the fire came a gentle whisper

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways; these words open a hymn that begins softly but builds to the tremendous crescendo of the final verse where we confront earthquake, wind and fire only to find God in the still small voice of calm.


Keep up to date

Subscribe to our eNews for a snapshot of news, events and resources, usually emailed once a fortnight

Signup to newsletter