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‘Discarded on an ecclesiastical rubbish tip’ — a priest writes

by
08 March 2013

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From the Revd Christopher Colledge

Sir, - I was delighted to read about the Revd Christopher Newell's experience of living with mental-health issues in Truro diocese (Letters, 1 March). Unfortunately, I suspect that the level of support that people with mental illness receive from the Church is something of a postcode lottery.

Ten years ago, aged 44, I suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown. After a period in hospital and a long period of outpatient care, it became clear that I would not be able to continue in stipendiary ministry, and would have to retire. Over the years since my breakdown, I have lived in several dioceses. At no time has anyone made any pastoral enquiry about my welfare. I have always been left with the sense that paying my pension entirely fulfilled any obligation.

The road has been lonely and painful, and many days have been endured through tears, clinging to the hope that tomorrow might be a better day. I have had to learn to live with "mental illness" with the help and support of the medical profession and those who love and care about me. Sadly, the Church of England does not feature in that group.

Mental illness does not preclude our using the gifts that we are given, in my case, skills learnt exercising chaplaincy with people who are deaf and deafblind, and years of pastoral experience. Far from being empowered by the Church, I feel discarded on an ecclesiastical rubbish tip.

CHRIS COLLEDGE
27 Grand Marine Court
Durley Gardens
Bournemouth BH2 5HS

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