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Let’s talk about mental health to ease stress, says Bishop of London

10 July 2020

Mental health is going to be essential as the country emerges from lockdown, she said

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TALKING about mental health is going to be essential as the country emerges from lockdown, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said this week.

The coronavirus remained a killer, and understanding the risks had helped everyone to stay alert in a time of real danger, the Bishop said in an article for ViaMedia. Many people had also faced “fearful burdens” on top of the virus: the shielding elderly, those whose loneliness had been exacerbated, those facing financial hardship and uncertainty, and those trapped with abusers.

“But the general climate of fear that has been so successfully inculcated in us leaves us with a conundrum,” she said. “How do we encourage one another wisely to emerge from lockdown? How do we begin to navigate this brave new world of face masks and social distancing?”

The challenge to churches was “to continue to have a culture in which everyone feels safe to share their struggles and feel able to speak openly . . . to talk to each other, to make it integral to our ministry life, whatever context we find ourselves in, for mental health to be a subject for prayer in public as well as in private. In this way, we can find the comfort and support we need.”

The Bishop made reference to a survey of 16,000 people published this week by the mental-health charity Mind. Sixty-five per cent of adult respondents and 75 per cent of 13- to 24-year-olds with pre-existing mental-health conditions said that their situations had worsened. More than one fifth of those aged 13 or over with no previous mental-health difficulties described their mental health as poor, or very poor.

The charity warned that easing the lockdown would not address many of the underlying issues, and the worst was yet to come. The impact on mental health of unemployment, financial difficulties, and housing issues would grow as government-led emergency measures came to an end and the recession began to bite.

The results broadly reflect those of the Church Times’s own survey of the effects of the pandemic on a wide range of aspects of well-being (Feature, 26 June). The survey, based on a sample of 4701 lay people and clergy in the Church of England, found that those with a negative response to lockdown felt more exhausted, anxious, fatigued, and frustrated, besides feeling further from family, church, and others.

Younger people were found to be more stressed than older people, but no difference was found between men and women, between those living alone and others, or between the self-isolated and others. Anglo-Catholics were found to be more stressed than other traditions, and clergy more stressed than lay ministers, who were, in turn, more stressed than other lay people.

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