The Archbishop of Canterbury demonstrated his support for Time to Change, England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma campaign, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, by signing an anti-discrimination pledge at a fringe meeting during the Church of England’s General Synod.
Synod members – bishops, clergy and laity from around the country - attended the fringe meeting on mental health at Church House on Thursday 9 February. The move comes after the Church of England developed a pack to help churches run services and activity around the subject of mental health and is continuing to build support for their work, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed concern about the stigma still attached to mental health problems.
At the pledge signing ceremony, over 40 representatives from churches across the country were also asked to pledge their support to Time to Change and show their commitment to promoting a better understanding of mental health problems, while offering support and welfare advice to their staff and congregations.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: “One in four adults and one in ten children will experience a mental health problem yet, as a society, we still seem to struggle to understand this experience and therefore judge people unfairly. Mental health issues touch the lives of every family, and every congregation in England, the UK and across the globe. It is time we assigned stigma and discrimination to the history books, and started to talk more openly about the issue as a way of breaking down stigma and misunderstanding, and building more empathy and support for recovery. As a society we must take more responsibility for the negative attitudes that people with a mental illness face on a daily basis.”
Sue Baker, director of Time to Change, said: “For many, church provides a sense of community and comfort which means it is a good place to start conversations about mental health. The Archbishop’s leadership in signing the pledge will help send the message across congregations that we all have a role to play in tackling the stigma and discrimination that is experienced by people with mental health problems so regularly, even in 2012.”
Church leaders join the wide movement of organisations that have signed up to the Time to Change Pledge, including the FA, the Premier League, Universities, BT, Eon, NHS Trusts, Primary Care Trusts, local authorities, Transport for London, Citizen’s Advice, and police forces.