Mental health project moves forward

Call for mental health champions marks World Mental Health Day: Sunday (10th October)
Prayer and faith help to support good mental health but stigma around the issues involved still remains a major challenge, research carried out by the Church of Ireland has revealed. These are some of the key findings that have emerged from research undertaken by the MindMattersCOI project earlier this year, 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

Survey closes and summer of analysis begins

The MindMatters COI survey has now closed. There was a very good response rate, with a total of 1,317 parishioners and 290 clergy completing it. In addition to the survey, one-to-one interviews were held with the two Archbishops and ten Bishops and focus groups with members, clergy and clergy spouses also took place. The researchers will be working hard on the data analysis over the summer and will present the baseline assessment report in early September 2021.

A youth consultation will also take place in September, with the researchers working in partnership with the COI Youth Department and the Diocesan Youth Officers – if you would like to take part in this, please contact your Diocesan Youth Officer directly.

There will be a number of training opportunities available to clergy and members of the Church once the baseline assessment report is available. Please keep an eye on the Training and Supports section of the MindMatters COI website for more information.

Can you spare 15 minutes for mental health?

By Bishop Pat Storey

On World Mental Health Day last October, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev John McDowell, launched MindMatters COI, the Church’s new mental health promotion initiative.  Wellness in body, mind and spirit is something that our Church wishes to promote and our faith deeply desires.

We have been working hard, gathering a lot of information, developing a website and establishing an advisory group of experts to guide the project.  I am pleased to let you know that we’re now starting to collect information on awareness and attitudes towards mental health within the Church, and we need your help.  Gathering your thoughts on mental health awareness and understanding is a key phase of the project as the results will inform and shape everything else we do.

Therefore, I would really appreciate if you would visit our website – https://mindmatters.ireland.anglican.org – and complete a short survey. It will only take about 15 minutes to complete, and the information you share will be anonymous and confidential.  We will also be running a number of online focus groups, and if you would like to join one of these, please let us know by emailing: mhp@rcbdub.org

If you don’t have internet access but would still like to participate, please call + 353 (0) 1 4125 660 and leave your name and address. We will post you out a copy of the survey with a stamped addressed envelope, to return directly to the project manager, and will also provide details of the focus groups should you wish to participate in them.

The success of this initiative depends on your participation, so I would really like to encourage you to contribute and also tell your friends, relatives and fellow parishioners about this opportunity to take part and help us to respond best to the mental health needs in the Church and wider community. Updates on the project will be available on our website so do visit it regularly. Thank you in advance.

Bishop Pat Storey chairs the Project Team and Advisory Group for MindMatters COI.
This article was first published in the May 2021 edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette, an all–island magazine serving the Church.

MindMatters COI: the Church of Ireland’s Mental Health Promotion Project

This three-year project, generously supported by Allchurches Trust, started in Autumn 2020.  The aim of the project is to raise awareness of, and respond to, the mental health needs of communities across the island of Ireland.  It also hopes to transform how we understand attitudes towards, and responses to mental health within the Church of Ireland and the wider community, through gathering evidence and looking at how we can promote good mental health over the longer term.  Bishop Pat Storey, who chairs the project team, has expressed her enthusiasm for the project, emphasising that MindMatters COI will give the Church the opportunity to find out “what our clergy and members know and understand about mental health, and they will then be offered a range of training and awareness programmes to support improved knowledge around this important topic.”

The appointed research team, Dr Katrina Collins and Kate Wilkinson, have now completed an extensive review of the existing literature on mental health awareness and understanding in faith–based communities.  Building on this, they are now moving on to find out about mental health awareness and understanding within the Church of Ireland community.

This is where the involvement of the wider Church, both clerical and lay, is critical.  Three surveys have been prepared: one for the clergy; one for adult members; and one for our younger members.  To support the surveys, a number of interviews and focus groups will be held with all three groups. The survey is completely confidential and anonymous and will take about 15 minutes to complete. The responses from the survey will be stored electronically in a password–protected file that only the two researchers will have access to. This information is not shared with anyone else and is only used for the purposes of the MindMatters COI project.

The interviews and focus groups will last about an hour and will give an opportunity to explore understanding and attitudes about mental health and mental health problems in more depth. This information will be treated in the same way as the survey responses. If you are interested in joining a focus group, please leave your contact details at the end of the survey, contact the project at mhp@rcbdub.org or call + 353 (0) 1 4125 660 and leave your name and contact details.

The findings from the research and the surveys will support the development of a Church of Ireland Mental Health Promotion Strategy, which will include a mental health awareness and training plan that will be rolled out across the Church of Ireland.  The strategy will also include a significant programme of seed funding for Diocesan–led mental health promotion initiatives.

The MindMatters COI project gives the Church of Ireland the opportunity to take proactive and positive steps to support mental health awareness and understanding for all of our members and clergy and we do hope you will get involved.

To read an introductory article by Bishop Pat Storey, please click here.  This article was first published in the May 2021 edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette, an all–island magazine serving the Church.