We are distributing a new leaflet to places of worship throughout the country.
The leaflet introduces people to Being Alongside, summarises our aims, and provides tips on what individuals and community and faith leaders can do to support people living with mental health distress.
Members gathered online and in-person for a special day conference on Saturday 15 January 2022, exploring the relationship between anxiety, depression and spirituality.
Contributors covered topics ranging from the place of faith in the treatment of those with mental health difficulties, to what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ approach to healing. Group discussion and reflection followed each talk.
The event was hosted in the beautiful, peaceful sorroundings of the Charterhouse in central London. As well as chance to consider our theme of helping those experiencing anxiety, the event gave members an opportunity to meet informally – for the first time in many months.
You can listen back to the addresses given by our three guest speakers below.
Philip Bacon, Brother of the Charterhouse & former psychotherapist on different approaches to the “delicate and difficult” task of exploring spiritual wellbeing in a clinical setting, and his experiences of encouraging patients to overcome a natural anxiety to discuss questions of faith.
John Cullen, homelessness outreach worker & chaplain of Nazareth House, Hammersmith on the power of listening attentively to those suffering from anxiety, and the imperative for all of religious faith to help those experiencing mental health difficulties see the potential of the future.
Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford on the lessons to be drawn from some of the Gospel stories about Jesus’ healing miracles: His unconditional standing with the unloved and oppressed.
The Being Alongside committee are very grateful to our guest speakers, and the brothers and staff of the Charterhouse for their kind hospitality.
The committee hope to arrange similar conferences in future, and welcome ideas on topics that could be covered or speakers to invite.
We also feature important news about our plans to modernise our charity structure; appreciations of three wonderful people from the Being Alongside family who have recently stepped down from their roles; a plea for openness and transparency about suicidal ideation; reflections on A Garden in Darkness (paintings by Michael Cook and poems by Rosalind O’Media.
We are also honoured to have been permitted to re-publish the brave testimonies of two women who experienced abuse at L’Arche, for which we thank the victim support organisation AVREF.
In response to an increasing number of people arriving at Southwark Cathedral complaining of loneliness, the cathedral’s day chaplains asked Andrew Wilson to lead them in a group discussion on the problem. Here he shares his contribution to the meeting.
I based my contribution to the discussion around two books I had been reading in lockdown. By way of introduction I suggested that the experience of loneliness was universal, whether it be in the playground perhaps, or the workplace, or sadly even within the circle of family and friends. One commentator writes “ The experience of loneliness is as universal as hunger or thirst. Because It affects us more intimately we are less inclined to speak of it. But who has not known its gnawing ache?” Jesus himself shared in that anguish, as Gethsemane and Calvary lay bare. “Alone, and in silent tears,” he endured betrayal and stigma.
The two books I had read both explored the anatomy of loneliness. The one a novel long-listed for the Booker prize, Real Life by Brandon Taylor, a black, gay American writer, and the other The Shattering of Loneliness, by Dom Erik Varden, formerly the abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, and now returned to his native land, to become Bishop of Central Norway.
This is a well written coherent account of what it must be like to have been born with a silver spoon, suffered the slings and things of outrageous fortune, fallen heavily, recognised one’s own plight and, with belief, compiled the many memories to chronicle a ‘you couldn’t make it up’ succession of extraordinary events. The fact that it is done with clarity and honesty makes it compelling reading.
The memoir starts off with the horrific ordeal of slipping through the mental health net, even as a voluntary patient, and reads at this stage rather like a verbatim account outlining the events after they had happened. The logical, well argued in hindsight, rant against widespread chemical coshing by the seemingly non-sensical overstretched unconcerned authorities and the Catch-22 patients can find themselves so easily sucked into make for disturbing reading.
Editor’s note: We are so grateful to Aisling (not her real name) for providing us with the following unvarnished account of her experience of a mental health crisis.
“Are you sure about this?” he said, as I slid the white gold band adorned with a diamond from my ring finger, and passed it back to him across the café table.
“Yes, I’m sure.” Little did I know that in that moment, Pandora’s box had been well and truly ripped open, and goddamn it, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get it shut again.
It was an otherwise innocuous June day in an upmarket, pedestrian borough of South-West London, famed for its yummy mummies, posh smoothies, and chain restaurants.
However, despite the suburban setting, this small action was about to set the wheels in motion for what can only be described as complete and utter hell on earth. Charles Dickens’ Hard Times had nothing on the next few months of my life.
I remember I was dressed in my workout gear: I’d just left a class at my new gym, and had come to see him for this last, final, decisive action over a coffee.
Passing back the engagement ring in itself was such an easy thing to do. It wasn’t so very hard to call curtains on a life that had barely just begun. What I hadn’t bargained for was everything that came next.
We are seeking an Administrator on a self-employed basis at £4,500 per annum.
The successful candidate will be computer literate, able to work from home, familiar with the requirements of the charity sector, adept at taking minutes but most importantly empathetic with the needs of the mentally afflicted.
The post-holder is the first point of contact for those wishing to engage with us and currently the only remunerated role in the national organisation.
For more information please see the post resumé, job description and person specification (PDFs below).
Or please telephone Richard on 07791 516575 or Jamie on 07730 464168.
A brief personal resumé and summary of your suitability (one page of A4) should reach firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of February 2021.