The mental wellbeing of our society is critically important if we are to weather the storm created by the pandemic. However, we must also consider that there are many older people who have been affected by mental ill health and challenges over the years who need particular support.
FiOP has been working with Voluntary Health Scotland which brought together representatives from a range of voluntary and public sector organisations to consider the issues that emerge for older people. “What happens to people with mental health conditions other than or alongside dementia once they become 65. Issues we have been exploring include under-diagnosis, under-provision, poor transitions from ‘adult’ services to ‘older people’ services, discrimination and flouting of human rights. It is said that for some people with serious mental health issues, their 65th birthday is like ‘falling off a cliff’ in terms of service provision. We have been gathering evidence to raise awareness of the issues faced by people and to try and improve policy and practice.” See the following link to access the evidence and discussions. Falling Off a Cliff at 65: Discussion Paper and Evidence (vhscotland.org.uk).
FiOP is committed to working collaboratively and together with other organisations; it has been good to gather evidence on which to base future action.
Over the past few years FiOP has given attention to building a resource for faith communities to support people experiencing dementia and there is still much to do. But just as our founder Malcolm Goldsmith exhorted churches to be alongside people with dementia so it is equally important for churches to take account of the support needed for both clergy and members of congregations who have mental health challenges.
Mental Health – The inclusive Church Resource (Darton, Longman and Todd 2018) points out that engaging with people living with mental illness is an important and challenging area of work for churches but that its importance needs to be highlighted given that 1:4 of the population is affected by mental health problems. We need to overcome the stigma surrounding mental health. We need to recognise the impact of loneliness and isolation on those who experience mental ill health.
In their chapter in this book Professor John Swinton and Jean Vanier discuss the theology relating to the church’s response to mental health and point out that ‘The primary gift that the church has to offer is the creation of a graceful space for meeting within which the possibility of listening, understanding, friendship, belonging and tenderness becomes real’.
Our focus on this issue will commence with a series of on-line seminars addressing these issues which we hope to follow up, especially when the Covid-19 restrictions allow, with discussions so that we can share experiences and learn from one another.
Your thoughts, contributions or ideas for further discussion are always welcome.
Faith in Older People
15 February 2021