Church well-being clinic seeks to plug gaps in mental-health provision

17 August 2018

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WHEN Sarah Milligan, a drama therapist, became concerned about the gaps in mental-health provision through which people could fall, she turned to her church for a solution.

Today, hundreds of people have attended the well-being clinics that she set up with the support of Grand Union Vineyard Church in Milton Keynes: an “informal no-judgement environment” where they can talk to trained counsellors, and have access to support that ranges from guided relaxation to massage.

“What we are trying to promote is that mental health is everyone’s business: we all have it and can all struggle for any reason,” she said on Wednesday. People arriving at the monthly clinics have included bankers, teachers, and people on long-term medication. “Stress at work is a massive issue, or anxiety that people didn’t feel they can talk about.”

Cuts to mental-health services, a lack of support outside office hours, and a gap for people who do not meet the threshold for support prompted her to establish the clinics two years ago, at Netherfield Chapel and Stony Stratford Library in the town. Her desire was to “bring agencies together and bring the Church into the conversation on mental health in our communities”, with the support of “amazing” volunteers.

Those who offer a “listening ear” at the clinics can point people to more formal support at agencies, which, in turn, can point them to the clinics. Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome, and volunteers offer services, including arts and crafts sessions, games, and nail and beauty sessions. A prayer station is also in place.

The clinics were changing perceptions of the Church, she said. Some who came through the doors had been hurt by the Church in the past, or would “rather not be in the building”, but had been “surprised” by what they found. Some people had requested prayer or started to attend church. In some instances, churches had been able to offer practical support.

“This is how we want to show practically that the Church does care about mental health and emotional well-being, and so does Jesus,” she said. She hopes that other churches will expand the model: “People’s lives could be transformed. . . It could be an incredible testimony to changing the conversation of how people see the Church and mental health.”

Businesses and churches that wish to offer practical support, from money to donations in kind, can contact: www.facebook.com/wellbeingmorningsMK

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