I've saved this for (almost) last as it is one of the most contentious issues I get to deal with on a regular basis. But, as one of those who have a history of mental health issues so accurately put it: 'The mad will always be with us and they will be our friends, colleagues, family and . . well, probably . . us!'
The spectrum of mental health issues is wide and generally misunderstood. If you don't believe me find someone with depression and ask them how many people have told them to 'cheer up'; find those who have different issues and you'll find that they've been told to 'pull themselves together' (or better still, to 'ignore it and get on with life').
I am privileged to be in a place where a great many of those around me have mental health related needs and rather than limit the ministry of, or from, the Church I find that their experiences (and troubles) are nothing but beneficial. That said, around me I see centres closing and services 're-aligned' such that they are in effect removed and this is something that the Church must stand against and also take up the challenge and stand in the gap.
I have sat in the corner of a room whilst the 'caring professional' before seeks merely (or so it seems) to find that caveat which excuses them from offering care. An example of this being a series of questions aimed at a man suffering from depression which, as the interview went on, descended into questions about smoking and alcohol. When the answer to the question, 'Have you ever drunk chemical-based cider?' was in the affirmative the 'professional' stopped the assessment and, handing over a leaflet for the local drink and drug support agency, told their would be client that they couldn't help and terminated the assessment.
I later asked the same person why this was the case and they said that any indication of alcohol abuse meant that they could 'pass on' the person to a different agency (even though this person is obviously suffering from the effects of quite bad depressive illness).
To make things even more interesting, as their symptoms increased and the illness deepened, the same person found that they were no longer eating or sleeping, to which one of the GPs merely proscribe a three month supply of sleeping pills and told them to come back in a couple of months!
Now I understand what it is to have a heavy workload and know that the cuts means that care and post-care support services are overstretched, underfunded and hard to find,
i. I am no longer prepared to walk away when I hit the brick wall that the mental health 'professionals' put up when they wish to neither be accountable or discuss the situation (and I always have a letter from the patient asking for disclosure and dialogue),
ii. I am not prepared to see those who need support services left to their own devices, but will move heaven and earth to create a safe space and find ways of providing what the system doesn't where I am,
iii. Mental illness cannot be 'caught' (as one moronic minister once said) and it does not create a bar to being a fully functioning member of the Church (except of course where behaviour and stuff does - and even then there are ways of making it work) - We have within our walls (Church universal) people with damaged bodies, missing limbs, cerebrally controlled limitations and, of course, mental illness. It is just another illness and just as I don't give sugar to diabetics or ask those with the effects of Polio remaining in their bodies to 'run over to the shops', there are considerations when dealing with the mentally ill (have, are or perhaps will be) and this is to realise that it is merely just another illness with its limitations and considerations accordingly.
So, 2013 is knocking at the door - so are those with mental health issues; one you can't stop and the other you surely can't ignore. Can you?