"Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad." (Proverbs 12:25, KNJV.)
Take a moment to envisage with me the following scenarios ‒ Just imagine meeting someone on the street who was experiencing severe mental distress, what would be your reaction? Perhaps someone visits your church and it was clear that they were suffering from heightened anxiety, what would you do? Or maybe, a church member shares with you that they are seriously depressed, how would you respond?
These were some of the mental health challenges that were analysed on Sunday 25 August 2019 at the Stanborough Centre (Stanborough Park church) as individuals were trained in their response to mental distress.
So how did this event come about?
Following an invitation to the One Vision Café inaugural launch in February this year, Sharon Platt-McDonald, British Union Conference (BUC) Director for Health, Community Services and Women's Ministries noted the mental health support needs of some of the clients who attended the café. Speaking with Enoch Kanagaraj chairman of One Vision and member of Stanborough Park church, Sharon presented plans to undertake Mental Health First Aid training to One Vision Café's staff and volunteers. This she stated would assist in better understanding the complexities some café users encounter, in particular those experiencing emotional and mental health challenges. It would also assist in knowing how to respond to individuals who were in emotional and mental distress, offer support and signpost them for intervention where necessary.
The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is a national certificated course from Mental Health First Aid England. The training includes opportunities for self-reflection, exercises and group work, which teaches individuals to look after their own and other's mental well-being. Additionally, it provides skills in effective communication, support, and referral. It also explores societal attitudes and behaviours regarding mental health and challenges stereotypes regarding mental ill health.
Amongst the diverse attendees to the training event were representatives from local charities, leaders from community and support groups and heads of organisations from the borough of Watford.
Grace Walsh, North England Conference (NEC) Director for Health, Community Services and Disability Awareness and MHFA Instructor delivered the training as the principal presenter along with Sharon Platt-McDonald also trained as a MHFA Instructor.
It was a joy to hear the responses from the attendees in their evaluation of the training and how relevant, informative and practical they had found it.
Speaking with Liz Burns, CEO and founder of Veterans' Support Group in Abbots Langley parish in Watford, she explained how she found the training pertinent to her work and very empowering. Dealing with the daily lives of the veterans she encountered, she was thrilled that she could now go back better equipped to deal with some of the emotional and mental health challenges that sometimes surfaces. She concluded by stating, "It's wonderful that the church can run training events like this to meet the needs of local people, many of whom are often overlooked. I would certainly recommend this to others."
Proverbs 12:25 highlights the 'good word' that we can speak to individuals experiencing emotional or mental health distress whether it be anxiety, depression of other forms of mental ill health. The attendees left the MHFA training better equipped to speak 'good words' of comfort, support and hope to those in emotional and mental distress. They also realised the importance of their own self-talk when they themselves go through these challenges.
In his evaluation of the day's training, Enoch Kanagaraj concluded, "I personally find a great need for mental health training in our community. It raises the awareness of mental ill-health, particularly stress, depression and anxiety. We demonstrate serving God by serving people. As scripture states in Mark 12:31 'Love your neighbours as yourself, there is no commandment greater than this.'"