It’s getting worse. Suicide rates are rising. It can’t be ignored.
If the rates of deaths from anything other than mental health problems were raising for the first time, there would be outrage.
Why are we not outraged that more than 4,000 people are taking their own lives every year? Why are we not outraged that there has been a 10 per cent increase in the use of sectioning under the mental health act? What are we not outraged that 20,000 children are going to A&E because of mental health problems?
It can be easy to be overwhelmed by numbers when reports such as this are released – or leaked – what difference can we make in the face of so many suffering?
And while it’s true that we can’t fix a flailing mental health system as individuals, we can make a difference in the lives of the people we know behind those numbers.
For centuries, the Church has been at the forefront of social care; food banks, care for the elderly and family support have been part and parcel of the church’s mission.
It’s time for us to step up.
We can’t fix the problems of mental health service waiting times, nor can we manage the work loads of thinly-stretched medical teams. What we can do, though, is speak up and reach out. In Jeff Lucas’ book Faith in the Fog, his words ring all too true: “When the Church is silent to a person in crisis, it can sound remarkably like the silence of God.”
We can’t be silent, because God isn’t silent.
Throughout the pages of our history, we can see God show up and speak. He showed up in flames to speak to Moses, and in the small voice to speak to Elijah. He showed up most powerfully and personally in the person of Jesus Christ, who reached out his hand to the untouchables and welcomed the most isolated in his society.
As Swinton and Vanier write: “The call of Jesus is to hear the cries of love and to move forwards in friendship and in perseverant love; a mode of friendship which destroys stigma and opens up space for all of us together to be fully human even in the midst of our wildest storms.”
In the wildest storms of an ailing system and hurting people, the Church of Jesus is called to extend the hand of friendship, providing community and a listening ear to the hurting and hopeless of our society.
Whether it be a community cafe initiative, a befriending scheme or a fundraiser for your local mental health team – how can your church reach out the hand of friendship to the most forgotten in our society?