Methodist Church plans its first mental health conference

By staff writers
February 8, 2015

The Methodist Church in Britain is organising its first-ever Mental Health Matters Conference for the summer of 2015.

The Conference will provide training, support and advice to children, youth workers, ministers, lay employees and anyone else who wishes to learn more about mental health issues affecting members of their congregation.

It will take place over the weekend of 5-7 June this year at Cliff College, in Derbyshire.

This year's theme will be 'Equipping Churches to Respond' and will include keynote speeches and workshops covering mental health issues experienced by children and young people, adults and the elderly.

Gill Dascombe, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and a Medicines Information and Training Pharmacist specialising in psychiatry for the NHS, will be one of the keynote speakers at the Conference.

"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of," said Ms Dascombe, who was the primary carer for her son for eight years while he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

"One in four of us will suffer from some form of mental illness during our lifetime, and still more of us have family members or friends who are suffering in this way and need our support. But all too often mental illness is not spoken about, swept under the carpet and ignored."

Mental health advocacy and survivors groups question the use of medical models and the term "illness" for the challenges people face in this area, but this terminology is established in psychiatric circles.

Mental health is an issue of growing concern among children and young people and those who work with them.

The Methodist Children and Youth reports that it has teamed up with the charity Young Minds to produce a series of resources that were launched at the 3Generate Children and Youth Assembly back in November 2014.

Ms Dascombe added:"Sometimes, even our Christian faith can work against us, making us feel guilty if we can't put a brave face on things and 'pull ourselves together'.

"In society, those who are severely mentally ill often are deserted by their family and friends, and may drift down the social scale, enduring poor housing and deprived living conditions. Yet, although they are constantly tormented by their symptoms the side effects of their medications, many of them would tell you that the worst thing they have to face is isolation."

At the 2014 Methodist Conference in Birmingham, young Methodists challenged the Church to take mental health issues seriously, calling for children's and youth workers to receive relevant training.

Ms Dascombe added that she is making mental health a primary focus during her year as Vice-President of the Methodist Conference.

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