Dear Friends September 2019

Dear Friends
MENTAL Health seems such an emotive issue these days.  Ranging from stress related depression and anxiety thru Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADHA to Alzheimer’s and Dementia and a whole raft of issues in between. Mental illness has many forms and varieties.  Rarely today do I meet someone that has not been touched in some way by some form of mental illness, whether that’s self,  in the immediate or wider family, a friend, neighbour or work colleague. Neither does mental illness know any age barrier – young or old, rich or poor, executive or labourer.  The cost to our economy is enormous The NHS in England planned to spend £12.2 billion on mental health in 2018/19. That’s roughly one in every ten pounds spent by the Department of Health and Social Care. Why is it such a powerful, costly and emotive subject these days?
You could argue I suppose that mental health has always been an issue it’s just that it has a much higher visibility and  we are much more  aware and informed than  we ever have been before.  That’s indisputable!  I would guess that process started with the shift to the ‘care in the community’ policies of recent governments and the pressures that has brought to individuals, families and communities and their resources.  Mental hospitals are much fewer and far between these days and there is still a certain amount of stigma attached to them.  The word bedlam came about as a contraction of the name of a hospital in London. This hospital started out in 1247 as a priory for the order of St. Mary of Bethlehem. This priory eventually became the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem and was meant to serve sick poor and homeless people. However, by 1405, the hospital was under royal control and had begun to be partly used as an insane asylum, the first of its kind in England. The name of the hospital had already been slurred to Bedlam in popular speech, helped along by the variant spelling Bethlem and soon an inmate of the asylum started to be called a bedlam as well.
Bedlam was not always the most well run or inspected of establishments and there were periods of great brutality and there were descriptions of “miserable creatures in chains” in John Evelyns 1657 diary. The hospital became known as a place of noisy, raving lunatics and wealthy people even took to visiting it to be entertained by their antics.  Thankfully care today is much more compassionate and caring and there are many healthcare professionals whose vocation is to administer that care and compassion.  It still begs the question why are we seeing such a prevalence of mental health issues today?
Is it culture? Is it society? Is it that our lives are so pressured? Is it the overwhelming desire to conform to the model of the modern person that our media champions and the disappointment of the failure to meet that model.  Is it the grand aspirations and high expectations we place on ourselves and our children that eats into the personality of the person we were meant to be?  I’m sure it’s these things and more that lead to the dysfunction we’ve become so familiar with and accustomed to that it almost seems the norm. As a Christian I believe there is an alternative.
The bible tells us The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NIV). How does he do that? He saves us by giving us a heart transplant. It’s his specialty, in fact.
God says, “For the heart that’s guilty, I’ll give you a heart that’s forgiven. For the heart that’s resentful, I’ll give you a heart that’s full of peace. For the heart that’s anxious, I’ll give you heart that’s confident. For the heart that’s lonely, I’ll give you a heart full of love. The heart that has been bitter and angry? I’ll give you a heart that is forgiving and loving and generous instead. Let me do a heart transplant in you. I will set you free.”
Worth thinking about on those difficult days. Why not explore the possibilities. ALPHA starts in St Gabriel’s in September. Please feel free to come along and find out more.  Details are below.
Your friend and Vicar
Revd. Arthur


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