Reverend Reflections


In the second of a series of articles, Revd James Gilder of Wanstead Parish talks about mental health and invites anyone affected by mental health issues to help him establish a new support group

I was chatting to someone the other day in the pub who proudly told me he was the only person he knew without ‘mental health’. Although it perhaps wasn’t the best way of expressing it, what I think he meant was that our mental health has become quite a hot topic in recent years, and people are more ready to address issues they have than perhaps they might once have been. 

The traditional British ‘stiff upper lip’ has many qualities, and of course, there are times when ‘just getting on with things’ can be its own remedy. However, there should be no shame for any of us in admitting to others when we do have problems, much as there is no shame in admitting to having twisted an ankle or to requiring a hearing aid.

One of the most interesting things about being a vicar is that we tend to move from one community to another, and so we can compare notes.

My last parish was a much less well-to-do place than Wanstead, and people I had never met before would often clap eyes on a dog collar when I was walking down the high street and freely come and tell me all their problems. This happens far less in Wanstead. I doubt it’s because people here don’t have problems, but that maybe we have all grown up in a world where we feel we ought to grin and bear it, and try to make a success of ourselves without troubling others with our issues, no matter how cathartic this can be. When everyone around us looks outwardly successful, it can, of course, be rather difficult to admit we are struggling in any way.

The truth is often we can achieve a great deal of worldly success but still have a feeling of emptiness or a great deal of stress and difficulty in life. This doesn’t make anyone a failure, although sometimes it’s easy to feel that way. 

Sometimes, having somewhere to chat about these things can be a real help. At Christ Church and St Mary’s, we are looking to set up a new group that will meet once a month on a Sunday afternoon. 

The group will be for the many of us who struggle with poor mental health to come and chat and to be a place of unburdening. What it won’t be is qualified therapy, although in time we hope to be able to find funding to signpost this for those who need it. 

We’re looking for volunteers to help us run this group. Maybe you are someone who has been affected by such issues and might be interested in helping out. If so, please get in touch.

To contact Reverend James Gilder, email wansteadparishadmin@uwclub.net

Author: Editor