Call for mental health champions marks next Sunday’s ‘World Mental Health Day’

Prayer and faith both help to support good mental health but stigma remains a major challenge, according to research carried out by the Church of Ireland. These are some of the key findings that have emerged from this year’s MindMattersCOI project, and the Church is now preparing to take practical steps to improve and support mental health literacy.

Over the past 12 months, MindMattersCOI has been listening to both clergy and lay members of the Church of Ireland to understand the Church’s attitudes and awareness towards mental health.  Over 1,200 members and more than half of all clergy participated in this research.  

On World Mental Health Day (Sunday, 10th October), the Church of Ireland is putting the call out for mental health champions to promote mental health literacy and help break down barriers created by stigma.

The Chairperson of the MindMattersCOI advisory group, Bishop Pat Storey, is urging people with an interest in mental health, whether personal or professional, to become involved in the project.  She commented: “Improving mental health literacy is so important for us all. We need to understand how to maintain and support positive mental health amongst our friends, community and, in particular, our younger people. Recognising issues and talking about mental health helps to decrease stigma and remove barriers to seeking help.”

The MindMattersCOI project is supported by Allchurches Trust. Jeremy Noles, Head of Grants and Relationships for Allchurches Trust, said: “As we continue to emerge from the Covid–19 pandemic, there’s a renewed focus across the UK and Ireland on mental health and well–being, and the increased needs and issues in this area. We’re delighted that our funding can help bring greater awareness and hope, by extending the reach of MindMattersCOI. This will help many more people struggling with mental health issues to access support which could change their lives for the better.”

The research, the results of which will be available on the MindMattersCOI website in the coming weeks, also found that:

  • both members and clergy agreed that the Church of Ireland has a role to play in promoting positive mental health
  • bishops note that they can provide the strong leadership required to effect positive and lasting change in relation to mental health attitudes and awareness
  • 96% of respondents felt that Covid–19 had had a significant impact on people’s mental health
  • family, friends and other connections were identified as key contributors to positive mental health
  • respondents reported that, although they have positive attitudes towards mental health issues, these still carry a significant level of stigma within the community;
  • in contrast to other studies among churches and other communities of faith, respondents did not identify clergy as a primary source of help in dealing with mental health issues; and
  • a significant number of clergy feel that the Church currently does not provide sufficient support for their mental health.

Based on the findings of the research, the next phase of the project will focus on improving mental health literacy. This is defined as:

  • understanding how to obtain and maintain positive mental health
  • understanding mental health problems and their treatments
  • decreasing stigma related to mental health problems; and
  • assisting people to seek help effectively.

The project is now calling for additional volunteers to get involved and become ambassadors for mental health in their parishes and wider communities. Thanks to the generous support of Allchurches Trust, there will be a wide variety of training on offer as well as funding available for local projects that support mental health literacy. Announcing Phase 2 of the project, Bishop Storey said: “We have listened to what you told us in the research and now we want you to get involved. We want you to join our movement for mental health literacy. There are opportunities for training and there is also seed funding for projects in parishes and dioceses.”

Although the MindMattersCOI project was conceived before the Covid pandemic, it is recognised that young people were among those most affected during successive lockdowns. The project is therefore carrying out an additional sub–study focusing exclusively on younger members of the Church of Ireland.

For more information and to sign up as a champion, please visit the MindMattersCOI website at https://mindmatters.ireland.anglican.org