The Church of Ireland began a three-year mental health promotion initiative in October 2020. This initiative aims to raise awareness of, and respond to the mental health needs of communities across the island of Ireland. The project was made possible by a significant grant from one of the UK and Ireland’s largest grant-making charities, Benefact Trust, and is fully supported by the Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland and the Church of Ireland’s House of Bishops.
There is a significant body of evidence highlighting the contribution a Church can make in mental health promotion. Clergy and pastoral carers are often the first people approached by those experiencing mental health difficulties, and their day-to-day activity brings them in contact with people experiencing anxiety, illness, bereavement, the search for meaning, and suicide or self-harm. The Church is an integral part of the community, in the unique position to reach even the most remote cohort of the population.
This project underlines and reaffirms the Church’s commitment to the community. It will serve as a concrete expression of our desire to make the Church a welcoming and inclusive environment, and it provides a practical demonstration of the Christian values of love and understanding.
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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.
It is a privilege to chair the project team and advisory group for MindMatters COI, our new all-island project aimed at promoting good mental health. The aim of the project is to transform the understanding of, and attitudes towards, mental health within the Church of Ireland.
If ever there was a need for such a project, it is during a worldwide pandemic when our mental health has been stretched to its limits. Everyone, no matter how resilient, has had bad days. We have never faced such a prolonged state of isolation and disappointment before. We have had to dig deep to find the resources within each one of us to bear it.
As and when we come out of this pandemic, we are grateful for the research and resources which this project will deliver. In the meantime, we continue to look after our own mental health and those around us.
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.