We have already been letting you know about a series of talks coming up in Montgomerys Restaurant Ballymena, given by Dr Steve Critchlow, dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress, addictions & suicidal thoughts. But what relevance is there between these, faith and the church?
“We discovered we were scratching where many people itch” was the comment made by one church who have already organised and run this series in a local café in Coleraine. It’s a fact that many in our communities are affected with mental health issues. Dr Critchlow, who will lead the similar event coming up in Ballymena says that in the past religious leaders didn’t help when it came to these matters. Mental illness was often seen as the person’s own fault. The impression was given that it was the result of some sort of spiritual problems or lack of commitment, with the person affected often told to ‘pull themselves together’. Thankfully this situation is changing with many church leaders being trained so they can better understand mental illness & many of the local churches in Ballymena are actively promoting these talks.
Interestingly, the psychiatric profession is also shifting it’s opinion on the link between faith and mental illness. In a recent study they found that those who regularly practised their religious faith showed clear benefits in many areas of their life including less depression, less suicide (one of the few things shown to affect the suicide rate) they lived longer and their marriages held together better. They also coped better with loss and bereavement.
Source – The psycho-social benefits of religious practice (Iona Institute 2009)
Having been a church pastor for many years and also working as a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Critchlow has the privilege of seeing it from all angles and totally understands how our mental health issues, faith and the church can and should work together. We at The Church Page would encourage you to come along to Montgomerys on Ballymoney St, Ballymena to hear what Steve has to say, whether you’re just interested in finding out more about the issues he will cover, or you or a close friend or relative is suffering from some of these mental health issues. They are informal evenings starting with a presentation of the topic, then after a coffee break you can decide whether you want to stay for the topic to be covered from a spiritual perspective. You can find out all about the topics covered, the dates, times etc by clicking here.