Church of Ireland rallies to improve mental health for parishioners

​Seven projects aimed at improving good mental health are being organised by parishes and bodies in the Connor diocese of the Church of Ireland as part of the 'MindMatters COI' initiative.
St Aidan's parish church, Glenavy, Co AntrimSt Aidan's parish church, Glenavy, Co Antrim
St Aidan's parish church, Glenavy, Co Antrim

​A total of 74 projects across the Church of Ireland’s 11 dioceses received funding, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the UK@s Benefact Trust.

The projects build on initial research carried out by the initiative and a programme of mental health awareness training, in which more than 400 clerics and lay people participated.

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In St Patrick’s church, Ballymena, ‘Together Again’ brings young people together in fun and fellowship to reconnect and build relationships and friendships.

Christ Church, Lisburn, is holding workshops targeted at leaders, staff and men in the parish through the ‘Take Five Steps to Wellbeing’.

The parish is also running ‘Our Minds Matter’ – a cross-community series of events including a guided retreat for up to 20 local church leaders, a walk-and-talk morning in nature, and a ‘Supporting Better Mental Health’ training event.

The diocesan children’s ministry team has produced a Sunday School mental health resource with four sessions to help teachers to speak to children in their parishes about mental health and how to look after their mental well-being.

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St Bartholomew’s church, Stranmillis in South Belfast, is running a soup and sandwich club, bringing older members of the community together after protracted separation during Covid-19, improving health and well-being through connections.

Lisburn Cathedral’s ‘Sunny intervals’ programme provides mental health support to adults and young people, including group meetings for mutual support and to hear from mental health professionals.

This work also includes training courses and online resources for young people, and the development of a youth and young adult mentoring programme.

Magheragall parish’s ‘Project Restart’ is re-introducing a range of activities that had been suspended due to Covid-19 to bring the parish together, providing social activity and helping to address mental health and faith.

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The experiences and lessons learned from the projects will be discussed at the 'MindMatters' all-island conference in Dublin on Friday, October. 20,

The conference, to be addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury the Rev Justin Welby, will also provide an opportunity to consider the future direction of mental health initiatives within the Church of Ireland.

* Connor dioceses, which takes in 74 parishes in north, west and south Belfast and Co Antrim, is the largest of the 11 Church of Ireland dioceses, with more than 100,000 parishioners.