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Taking antidepressants ‘no big deal’ says Welby

21 October 2019

The Archbishop addresses mental health at Lambeth workshop


The Duke of Sussex and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the mental-health conference last Friday

The Duke of Sussex and the Archbishop of Canterbury at the mental-health conference last Friday

IT IS not a “big deal” to take an antidepressant every day, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as he revealed that he currently takes them.

Speaking at an event in Lambeth Palace last Friday, “Faith and Mental Health: A Christian Response”, Archbishop Welby said: “I carry an inhaler everywhere, I take an antidepressant every morning. Big deal. . . They are two sides of the same coin.”

The event featured workshops for the 100 participants, one of which included the Duke of Sussex, Kensington Palace confirmed. Speakers included the Archbishop; the Mental Health Equalities adviser for NHS England, Dr Jacqui Dyer; the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome; and the Liberal Democrat MP Dr Sarah Wollaston.

Workshops featured topics such as mental-health concerns in BAME communities; LGBTTQ+ people and mental health; sexual abuse, trauma, and mental health; offenders’ mental health; and poverty, social exclusion, and mental health.

Giving Radio 4’s Thought for the Day before the conference, Archbishop Welby said: “Last year, I realised I was depressed. I have a daughter who has been very open about her experiences of depression, and she helped me see that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s just life — and I got help.”

Later, at the conference, discussing with the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, why the event was being held, he said: “The most important [reason] is that as we have become more conscious of the signs of mental well-being and the absence of mental well-being. We have realised — not that there is a new epidemic — but that we are discerning things, we are seeing things, that we’ve never seen before, and we’re realising some of the complexities.”

Lambeth PalaceAt the conference last Friday (left to right): the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Chaplain, Dr Isabelle Hamley; the Duke of Sussex; the chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell; and Archbishop Welby

Archbishop Welby continued: “I’m thinking of people in my current diocese and my previous diocese — outstanding people, who found that they had mental ill-health, and the Church was flummoxed by it, and has a long history, with the rest of society, of not knowing how to deal with it.

“And, as we look at that, we realise that we can have a huge impact on lives and overall relationships, employment, sense of direction and purpose, by enabling better mental well-being — even when they have ill health, and therefore we need to reflect and draw attention to that. . .

“While in many churches there are good safe spaces in which people are loved and cared for, it is not universal, and so we need to work a lot on that.”

Dr Dyer said that the conversation about mental health was an “ongoing process” of developing people’s awareness: “People still struggle to talk about mental well-being in the same way they’d talk about physical well-being.”

The Archbishop said that he had found it “quite easy” to talk about his mental-health issues (Comment, 18 October). “I did not find it difficult, but that is because we have the blessing of a daughter who has been very honest [about her struggles].”

He said that he would not have found it as easy a few years ago, and that he was in the fortunate position of not having a boss who could make decisions based on his disclosures about mental health.

“Depression is interpreted by many employers as someone who . . . is incapable of getting out of bed in the morning and isn’t able to do their job properly,” he said.

He also said that mental-health well-being should be factored into the way people were chosen for ordination, and that it should be “institutionalised” by the Church. “No one will take mental health as seriously as the Church has the potential to do.”

Another speaker, the director of the Centre for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Durham University, the Revd Professor Christopher Cook, said that the Church needed to “reintegrate faith with the fabric of mental-health care”.

Later, Dr Wollaston spoke of the link between poverty and mental-health struggles.

She also paid tribute to the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is leaving her post to be the next Bishop of Dover (News, 28 June).

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