The Church of Ireland is today, on World Mental Health Day (Saturday, 10th October), launching a major three-year all-island mental health promotion programme. Among the many effects of Covid-19 has been an increased awareness of the importance of promoting and supporting positive mental health – an issue that affects people in every part of the community.
Entitled ‘Mental Health Promotion across the Church of Ireland and Wider Community’, the project aims to transform the understanding of, attitudes towards, and responses to mental health within the Church of Ireland and the wider community. It has been made possible by a significant grant from Allchurches Trust – one of the UK and Ireland’s largest grant-making charities. Allchurches’ funds come from its ownership of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group.
The project will begin with a study to establish the understanding of, and attitudes towards, mental health within the Church community. The study will also measure any changes in these at the end of the three years. The results of this research will shape an integrated programme of mental health promotion, support and training, which will be rolled out on an all-island basis. This will be followed by individual dioceses being invited to apply for funding to support more localised initiatives.
Throughout this project, the Church will work with a range of other organisations, both state-sponsored and voluntary, involved in mental health promotion in all parts of the island, and will share the results of its research, and the lessons learned from the project, with government bodies and charities.
Welcoming the initiative, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, said: ‘The Church of Ireland is a church that seeks to serve the whole community and to engender hope at a very difficult time for everyone who lives on this island. That hope is based on our understanding of the generous gospel of Jesus Christ through sharing whatever resources and gifts we possess, as open-handedly as possible. My hope and prayer for this initiative is that as a serving church we will be able to be more effective in our ministry of comfort, of practical help and of hope, and in doing so to benefit those most in need within our communities and beyond.’
Jeremy Noles, Head of Grants and Relationships at Allchurches Trust, said: ‘Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues facing our communities, and, as the devastating long-term impact of the pandemic becomes clearer, the need and opportunity for the Church to step up its support in this area is growing. The Church has always been on the frontline of caring for the vulnerable, and we’re delighted that our funding will help deepen understanding of mental health in the Church of Ireland, enabling them to raise awareness and respond to this pressing need in the most effective way possible.’
Prof Jim Lucey, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, said: ‘I am really encouraged by the understanding and recognition of the pivotal role the Church plays in mental health promotion displayed in this application. Clergy can plan a key role in mental health promotion and their skills and well-being have to be recognised and supported. I understand the significant role that the Church has in mental health promotion in society and I am excited by this needs-led all-island initiative. I am particularly heartened that the project team understand the importance of the project being needs-led, and I look forward to seeing the results of the baseline assessment of the Church’s understanding of, and ability to promote mental health. This participative, needs-led approach is crucial to the sustainable embedding of positive mental health initiatives and I am excited about what this project will result in across the Church and wider community.’
Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland, also endorsed the project, saying: ‘I admire the in-depth and sustainable approach taken in this project as it aims to support and respond to the mental health needs of the community. The Church of Ireland have put in place all the necessary considerations to make this project sustainable and we particularly welcome their approach of carrying out baseline research to establish the current needs of the community.’