Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(2) May 2020


Caring for the Mind: Mental Health and Spiritual Support
Boarbank Hall, 4th-5th February 2020

Sr Margaret Atkins

Boarbank HallMental health is an ever-increasing concern for chaplains of all kinds.

At Bishop Paul Mason’s initiative, we ran at Boarbank Hall in early February a two-day course, Caring for the Mind: Mental Health and Spiritual Support, attended by healthcare and prison chaplains, and clergy with related responsibilities.

Dr Adrian Treloar, a geriatric psychiatrist based in South East London also well known for his work for the Catholic Medical Association, provided the clinical expertise, with a lucid overview of mental health difficulties.

This was complemented by Deacon Michael Mkpadi, of the Leeds Diocese, whose expert guidance in discerning among biological, emotional and spiritual disorders showed the enormous value of high-level mental health training for chaplains.

Three speakers from our own diocese completed the menu: Sr Marian Davey, based in Blackpool, gave a human face to the question with illuminat­ing accounts of the patients she encountered as a mental health chaplain. Stephen Bamber, living in Lancaster, offered a powerful account of both the despair of addiction and the real hope of recovery, if the right networks of support are available. Stephen uses his own expert understanding of both addiction and IT to create specialist support systems for people in recovery.

Finally Jack Regan provided a couple of short but very rich sessions on Mental Health First Aid and on Caring for Yourself. We are truly blessed that Jack will be our new diocesan Head of Youth Services, starting his role in May.

Dr Adrian Treloar adds that:

Beach sceneThe Mental Health First Aid session inspired two of us on the way home to intervene on London Bridge Station to support a very disturbed lady who was clearly at risk. With the help of station staff, she was successfully returned to her family’s care.

But most of all this course was a wonderful opportunity to think through hospital chaplaincy, especially from the point of view of mental health. We really struggle to achieve results in this area, and there is much to do. I shall try and work out ways in which we make improvements in Mental Health Chaplaincy over the coming months. And alongside all that, daily Mass and Daily Prayer of the Church in a monastery with fantastic views and walks all around.