At the opening of the Mental Health Conference in Leeds earlier this month delegates were asked to think about having five meaningful conversations a day, in addition to the daily intake of five fruit and vegetables.
Participants came from across the country to showcase the 11 mental health projects, funded by Day for Life, the day by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales dedicated to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. Bishop Richard Moth of the Forces chaired the 24-hour conference with Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind.
It was a rollercoaster showcase tour beginning with a preview of Voices Unheard: Travellers in Prison, a disarmingly honest and often tragic portrayal of the mental health issues affecting one of the most marginalised groups within British prisons.
The tour then moved on to Shrewsbury, where 14 healing Masses have taken place in the diocese and mental health support groups have been established. The tour then went to Nuneaton, where a young mental health nurse has set up the St Dymphna Befriending Group, which brings together volunteers from Our Lady of the Angels in Nuneaton, many of whom have a personal or caring experience of mental health. The project aims to support all those in the Rugby deanery who experience mental distress. It is now applying for charitable status, seeking further funding, joining together with the SVP, training more volunteers and hoping to collaborate with ecumenical mental health groups.
Bishop Moth brought the conference to a close by speaking of about we how see the Church at its very best when it is serving.
“The authority of the Church is the authority of service,” he said. “This project is about service and we have to keep a tight grasp on that.”
Delegates at the Mental Health Conference included chaplains, doctors, mental health practitioners, carers, parishioners, members of the Union of Catholic Mothers, the St John of God Hospitaliers and representatives from family life ministries.
The bishops’ conference mental health project office was established in 2010. It has given £70,000 in mental health grants to 11 projects based in dioceses, parishes and schools.
The aim of the conference was to showcase the 11 projects and look towards future ways of working and sharing best practice.