Today the world marks World Mental Health Day; the emphasis being “Suicide Prevention”. World Mental Health Day was observed for the first time on 10 October 1992. It is as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health initiated by Deputy Secretary General, Richard Hunter.
Today the Nous, the non-profit UK organization headed by Lade Olugbemi will be facilitating a workshop of “Suicide Prevention” with the Evangelical Alliance and Jesus House. The Evangelical Alliance is the oldest movement in England that brings together people and organizations to deal with the challenges and opportunities the Church is facing. Jesus House, the church was founded as a church plant of Freedom Hall, a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), in Lagos, Nigeria in April 1994.
Is it a Demon or Is it mental illness?
Questions are arising if the African Pentecostal church has mixed African traditions and the teachings of Jesus. There is a large number of Black Asian and Ethnic minorities that attend such churches and work within the mental health services. There seems no common space where our white colleagues could learn about BAME cultures. A continent like Africa has 54 nations and 2000 language and the key religions are Christianity and Islam; how do we enter the discourse to ensure patients are treated with dignity.
Some of the challenges are:
- The pastor has the last say regarding their congregation
- There is ignorance on actual mental illness i.e. physiology, biology and its effects. Mental illness seems to be seen as separate from mainstream illnesses.
- Depending on which part of Africa there is a lot of influence of witchcraft when dealing with mental illness which could make the situation worse.
- Demystifying the services that are available to help people in the UK.
There is generally a fear of spiritual abuse and there have been many reports in the News. For me, a pastor once called me out in the church stating I had a “spirit of lying”. What happened after that was the most humiliating experience of a pastor shouting “come out, come out” I am not sure what was supposed to be coming out. It did not help that some point I was praying for an umbrella as he spat on my face. I then got really angry as olive oil was spilt on my head onto my body messing my t-shirt. I did nothing, why? Internal training that one does not dishonour the pastor in public. Today I avoid such pastors like a plague and only pray with trustworthy pastors.
As the Nous facilitates this meet today, one of the outcomes hoped is:
- People will take away information that will help their congregations.
- Training on First Response Mental will be included in educational budgets for the Nous to facilitate the same for church leaders.
- This is a beginning of a cordial relationship with the community representative and Churches to create the forum for the discussion on preventing suicide.
The necessity is of paramount importance as the vacancies for consultants has doubled in Scotland; and the austerity cuts has seen a major drop in professionals. The child and adult mental health services need to be grossly under-resourced and I can only opine these posts were held by the so called “immigrants” who have left employment. Many times seeing on of your own kind calms patients and helps as they may have an understanding of underlying taboo subjects.
If the church and the community leaders and organisations can work together, perhaps they will be the bridge between us and mental health services