‘Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), following a huge spike in the number of people who report living with the condition’. (Guardian Newspaper 31 March 2017).
It is our practice for a different member of our community to light our chalice at the start of Sunday worship. It is an opportunity to highlight important concerns and issues. Richard Ross lit the chalice on 16 April and Brian Robertson lit the chalice the following week on 23 April. In different ways they both presented thought-provoking views on two different aspects of mental health. Both agreed that it is important to share and learn more about mental health. After the service, Brian added extra material for inclusion on this page. This extra material is in italics.
World Autism Awareness Week which ended on 2 April, reminds us that autism is a hidden disability which affects many around us.
Recent estimates suggest one in sixty-eight of the population are somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum. It affects more boys and men than girls and women. There is as yet no cure, but much can be done to help.
Sensory overload is a challenge for autistic people, too much distracting noise; bright flashing lights; unexpected situations; a change of routine.
This can lead to unhappiness, distress, dis-orientation and even emotional meltdown.
I light this candle so that we may understand better the challenges facing people with hidden disabilities like autism.
Today is a day of races with the Great Run in Edinburgh city centre causing us all a bit of inconvenience as we make our way to St Mark’s.
Today is also the day of the London Marathon. Its charity of the year 2017 is ‘Heads Together’, the aim of which is to ‘end the stigma and change the conversation’ around mental health and mental ill health.
In the build-up to the Marathon this week, one of the better TV programmes (‘Mind over Marathon on Thursday 20 April’) was one which showed ordinary people with mental health difficulties preparing for the race. This was most encouraging as was the active support given to these race preparations by the Princes William and Harry. In particular, Prince Harry, - the all-action tough guy – deserves credit for speaking out this week (about the loss of his mother) and this can only be helpful.
I like to think that we also do our own little bit in St Mark’s (to promote good mental health) with our Mindfulness at Lunchtime which is open to all and costs nothing, as well as our Bereavement Support Group.
I recall lighting the Peace Candle some four or five years ago when I expressed the hope that there would be greater acceptance and understanding of mental ill health. I think I can say today, with certainty, that progress has been made. But we’re not there yet.
So I light the Peace Candle with the very realistic hope that progress in tackling the stigma around mental ill health will be maintained and that perhaps the conversation can indeed be changed ‘once and for all’.
(Episode 2 of the programme that I mentioned above was shown on Thursday 27 April and this showed how the race had gone. It is equally worth watching if you can catch it on BBC iPlayer before 2 June).