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The Bishop of Ely on Mental Health Issues

Video interview published today 

One of the things about people with mental illness is that they are very often people of real courage- according to the Bishop of Ely, Stephen Conway, in a YouTubevideo interview broadcast today on the Ely Diocesan website.

Bishop Conway discusses the experiences he had whilst training for the priesthood at Westcott House as he spent a year working alongside young people with learning difficulties in Cambridge before spending a fortnight on the acute admissions ward at the Fulbourn Mental Hospital. 

The Bishop says: “That really set a particular framework for the whole of my subsequent ministry. This was reinforced by a direct experience as a carer of a close family member with an undiagnosed serious mental illness, so ever since this has been a formative part of my ministry right up until now, being a Bishop.

Bishop Conway talks about how mental illness still sadly has a stigma attached to it and many people will have different kinds of mental ill health during their lifetime. 

He says: “One of the reasons why a number of people do not seek help soon enough is because people think that once they’re labelled as someone with a mental illness that that is an imprison for the rest of their life. 

What we celebrate, more and more, and the mental health services are doing this as much as they can, is to celebrate the fact that for everybody there can be recovery, even for a chronic illness,” he adds.

Paying tribute to the work of the Church of England in this area he says: “The Church of England, a few years ago, worked very hard with specialists in the field, mental health chaplains and others, to prepare a pack that’s now on the Church of England website (www.churchofengland.org/our-views/home-and-community-affairs/home-affairs-policy/mental-health.aspx) which assists churches that really want to embrace and welcome people with mental health needs. It does so in a way that provides proper protocols and boundaries so that everybody feels safe.

He adds: “The Department of Health has commissioned work which shows mental health issues is assuaged by being part of a faith community, by having a sense of belonging and value and the opportunity to being open to worship and prayer, which not only brings people calm, but also renews people courage.

Watch the video in full at www.ely.anglican.org.

1st August 2011