Bishops distribute money from Day for Life collections of 2008 and 2009

The bishops’ conference has given £70,000 in grants to 11 projects relating to mental health in eight locales, it was announced last week.

The Mental Health Project 2010-2012 has been established under the guidance of Bishop Richard Moth, the bishop responsible for mental health, and has been funded through donations from the Day for Life, which took mental health as its theme for 2008, and suicide for 2009. The project began as a response to “Listening 2004: My Family My Church”, the bishops’ conference initiative set up in the light of the UN year for the family.

The Mental Health Project aims to support Catholic communities in dealing with mental health issues, to identify and highlight good practice in pastoral care and to develop a network to Catholic groups with an interest in mental health support.

The money, intended to act as a “seed fund” for the projects, has been granted to projects in Norwich, Hertfordshire, Nuneaton, London, Coleshill, Liverpool, Shrewsbury Diocese, and Milton Keynes, as well as one project focused on prisons and two national projects. The grants ranged in size from £250 to £14,936.

Notre Dame High School in Norwich received £250 for the production of DVDs and booklet resources to supplement a “Mindfulness in Schools” course for Year 11 students. The money will pay for a course of eight one-hour lessons teaching “mindfulness techniques” to around 180 pupils, helping them to cope with anxiety in the run-up to exams.

A project in Hertfordshire to create weekly “spiritual music” groups for the elderly and mentally ill in hospitals was given £2,000. The money will be used to train volunteers.

An award of £2,500 was made for the establishment of a Christian support network in Nuneaton for those with psychotic, mood, or personality disorders, as well as their carers.

The homeless charity The Passage received £4,000. It hopes to use the money so that its clients can produce a leaflet providing advice on staying mentally healthy and to establish a peer mentoring project.

The Pastoral Care Project, a charity specialising in the needs of those with dementia and their carers, received £5,000 for the development of a Day of Prayer for Dementia on March 19, through which the charity hopes to raise awareness of the spiritual needs of the elderly and those with dementia, as well as to help carers with the spiritual aspect of their clients’ lives.

Another £5,000 was awarded for the setup of a support group for female asylum seekers and their children, aimed at reducing stress and arranging outings three times a year, and a Christmas party for the children. The group also hopes to involve the local parish, as well as the University Catholic Chaplaincy and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

An award of £6,240 was made to a project in Milton Keynes aiming to offer mentoring and one-to-one support for parents, and provide training for school staff to raise greater awareness of the difficulties facing some families. The project aims to work with schools and enable them to establish local support networks, and hopes to have a programme of consultation and advice for staff across several Catholic schools to help with maintaining these networks.

A total of £14,500 was awarded to the Diocese of Shrewsbury for one year’s employment of a part-time mental health worker, who will set up mental health support groups where they have been requested in the diocese, primarily for those who have attended healing Masses or diocesan mental health days. The project also aims to prepare new members to lead support groups, which will have a strong spiritual dimension, and be a place for people to share their difficulties.

An award of £7,500 was made for the production of a DVD called “Voices of the Unheard”, which will show 10 Irish Travellers in prison telling their story about the situation they face in prisons, and the issues which affect their mental health. The DVD is designed to complement academic research into the situation of Irish Travellers in prisons in England and Wales.

Another £7,500 was given to the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, to help Catholic youth organisations nationwide to understand mental health issues. The funds will also pay for research into stress, anxiety and the desire for happiness among young Catholics, the impact these have on their mental health, and the relationship with their faith. The research aims to produce a toolkit of resources for communities to respond to the research.

Telos Training received £14,936 for the delivery nationwide of diocesan or deanery-based workshops, a series of regional workshops aimed at the needs of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and a series of national workshops on specialist topics. The topics covered will be agreed with those requesting the workshops. An online resource toolkit will be developed for enabling parish discussions.

Bishop Moth said that the bishops’ conference hopes to use the projects to develop a set of “best practice” guidelines for pastoral care for those dealing with mental health difficulties, to be deployed nationally at the parish level.