Joy at launch of new Notts drop-in

Councillor Sandra Barnes, Mayor of Gedling, meets drop-in co-ordinator Sue Clayton (right) and other volunteers

PEOPLE in Arnold, a suburb of Nottingham, now have a friendly place to go for information, help and companionship every Friday thanks to a new drop-in organised by Arnold Methodist Church Mental Health Befriending and Support Group.

The drop-in was already running for four weeks before it was officially launched on September 9th by the mayor of Gedling, Councillor Sandra Barnes. To judge by the numbers attending, it clearly meets a need, with around 60 people turning up for each of the first month’s sessions.

Sue Clayton, a Being Alongside / APCMH member who has acted as a carer and had experience of depression herself, is co-ordinating the new drop-in. “We have recruited 20 volunteers from our church and other churches,” she said.” Some have had professional training, as therapists and nurses. The chair of the local bi-polar association is volunteering, as are several members of the community who have lived and personal experience of mental health issues.”

In addition to support from its local NHS trust and local authority, the Arnold drop-in has received an initial grant of £500 from BA / APCMH to help cover setup costs. It is in discussion with our trustees regarding the possibility of further funding and of affiliating to the association.

“We would like to express our enormous thanks for the donation,” said Sue. “We have used it to buy games and other equipment for the running of the weekly group.” She added: “We give thanks, praise and glory to the Lord for making his will known to us for establishing this project and providing the people, the means, the finance and the expertise of so many people to enable this to become a reality. We feel privileged as a church community to be given this opportunity in Nottingham.”

Merton & Sutton summer party fun

GOOD WEATHER and a delightful new venue in the form of St Mark’s church hall in Wimbledon helped to make Merton & Sutton APCMH’s summer party go with a swing this year.

Befrienders and those they befriend turned out in good numbers to enjoy a complimentary buffet and a variety of refreshments, with entertainment in the form of a quiz and raffle.

The group has provided a befriending service for over 25 years now, and there are currently approaching 40 active befriending relationships.

Bishop Stephen Sykes bursary covers cost of new laptop for student

PURSUING ITS MISSION to support the educational aspirations and careers of those who have experienced serious mental health difficulties, the Bishop Stephen Sykes bursary has provided £400 to a young man studying in Scotland to cover the cost of buying a new laptop—an essential tool for study these days.

BA / APCMH trustees granted the funds after hearing that the applicant was finding it difficult to continue his studies because his old laptop had broken down and was unusable. The application was accompanied by letters from the university and a support worker commending the student’s tenacity in continuing to pursue his studies despite having had a number of setbacks.

Trustees were pleased to hear this, and sent their good wishes and encouragement along with the bursary’s financial support.

£1000 for Forest Hill branch

OUR LONGEST-RUNNING branch, Forest Hill in south-east London, is to receive a grant of £1,000 from Being Alongside / APCMH to support its work.

The main activity of the Forest Hill branch is running a drop-in session every Wednesday evening at St. Saviour’s Church Hall, Brockley Rise, offering refreshments, chat and a friendly welcome for all. The drop-in has run weekly since May 1987.

The branch complements its regular drop-in with occasional outings, such as to Hastings, Worth Abbey and Leeds Castle, as well as barbecues in the church grounds. These are greatly appreciated by members. The grant will go towards paying for these events, as well the costs of training volunteers for the drop-in.

Member survey provides valuable feedback

MEMBERS from around the country have been sending in their responses to the survey which we enclosed with the Spring issue of Being Alongside magazine.

The survey consisted of 14 questions, including how members first heard of our organisation; why they chose to support us; what they thought of our magazine and website; how they thought we should promote ourselves; and where we should concentrate our efforts.

On average, people ticked between two and three reasons for becoming a supporter. About half chose the first three options: “For my own wellbeing”, “Experienced mental ill health myself” and “Family members who have experiencedmental illness”. One-third indicated that they were carers.

Other factors included the work members do; the link between mental health and spirituality; and bringing together carers and sufferers. People heard about BA/APCMH via many sources: 14% were via their church and 20% via friends or their profession. Other sources mentioned were Christian Advert magazine, Guild of Health, CRE, Rethink, Diocesan Directory, a Jean Vanier talk, Open Door, APCMH branches, libraries and colleges.

Appreciation of the magazine was widespread, with 88% saying that they valued receiving and reading it highly, and only 7% saying that they didn’t read it. Lots of useful comments were made regarding the organisation as a whole and how we could promote ourselves more effectively. A selection of these is reproduced opposite.

Trustee Nick Cotton, who has been collating the survey results, says: “We’re very grateful to everyone who took the trouble to complete the survey, and would welcome any more that haven’t been returned yet, so if you haven’t filled it in, please do! Every comment will be read and valued.”

Members offered a wide range of comments about Being Alongside

Cake & candles for our 30th

BIRTHDAY banners and balloons adorned the library at Southwark Cathedral  in celebration of 30 years of Being Alongside / the Association for Pastoral  Care in Mental Health.

From three o’clock there was a gentle gathering of about 40 friends old and new over tea-time sweets and savouries. Pride of place were not one but two birthday cakes (one of which was gluten-free) baked for the occasion,  decorated with the charity’s logo. The cathedral’s Sub-Dean, Michael Rawson, gave a warm speech of welcome.

The charity’s chairman, Jamie Summers, spoke of the quality not the quantity of supporters which had remained unchanged over the past 20 years. Marion Marples, a pastoral auxiliary at the cathedral, then announced the launch of her pamphlet The Journey of Hope, a guide to help strangers visiting this special place. We were splendidly looked after by the lady from the cathedral’s caterers, for whom no request was too small.

The evening healing service in the cathedral that followed at six o’clock drew more than 70 attendees. The service was led by Canon Gilly Myers, with Michael Rawson, Canon Andrew Wilson and Cathy Wiles assisting.

It was a beautifully sensitive and spiritual time of worship and prayer crafted for the occasion. Hymns included Immortal invisible and I, the Lord of sea and sky. Readings were Psalm 42 and John 4: 7-14.

Andrew Wilson gave a moving and inspiring talk reflecting on the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. He focused on Jesus’ and our own vulnerabilities and needs, and how relationship grows when these are acknowledged and met.

Candles complete any birthday celebration. These played a key visual part, with those attending the service coming forward to light and place a candle as a silent prayer in a central floor-standing candelabra. Many also responded to the invitation to receive prayer and oil anointing for healing, for themselves or for others.

May God’s blessing continue to grow the work of and support for Being Alongside / APCMH, and encourage all its volunteers and befrienders—and all those whom they befriend.

Report by Ella Majchrzakowska (a first-time visitor)

Concern at Church Times mental health coverage

ADVOCATES for pastoral care in mental health have filled the letters pages of the Church Times in response to two articles published during Mental Health Awareness Week.

One of the articles was written from the point of view of a parish priest encountering people in precarious mental health, detailing various scenarios that can occur, recounted from experience. The other was an interview with a vicar’s wife who had been stabbed in a random attack by a very ill man.

The letters page of the following week’s edition was filled with responses to these articles. While these included praise for the effort made to mark the awareness week, and for particular merits in the articles, there was also criticism, some for errors in detail but also on grounds such as editorial lack of balance and lost opportunity to give a voice to people who have experienced mental distress.

In his letter, consultant psychiatrist Tom Selmes pointed out that the rates of serious violence associated with mental illness are low, and that the majority of treatment takes place voluntarily and in the community.

Former mental health chaplain Revd John Foskett wrote: “What I missed was the voices and experience of people in mental-health crisis themselves,” and referred to both the Somerset Spirituality Project and Being Alongside / APCMH.

Our chair Jamie Summers, writing in a personal capacity, declared that “outcomes are often better for people who avoid contact with psychiatric services entirely. The drugs don’t always work. Love always does.” He concluded: “It is sad that fear of the stranger persists in church circles. In medieval times, monasteries were the default mental asylums. Oh that the modern Church would take a more enlightened view of how to come alongside those with troubled minds.”

Rachael Twomey of Bethnal Green, meanwhile, echoed Tom Selmes’ point, adding that “a disproportionate emphasis on compulsion and dangerousness can perpetuate those feelings of fear and shame that prevent people from seeking help, for themselves or others.”