From sore – to soar
The recent Children’s Ministry Network conference explored issues around children’s well-being and mental health. Sian Hancock attended on behalf of the CYF Round Table
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly”. John 10:10
The statistics and stories around children's mental health in the media are stark:
16 million people in the UK suffer from mental illness.
Three in four mental illnesses begin in childhood.
75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday.
10% of school children have a diagnosable mental illness.
75% of young people with a treatable mental health problem are not receiving treatment.
However, while services are creaking with demand we had the opportunity to hear about some inspirational work in Birmingham.
The Birmingham Centre for Arts Therapies explained the role of creative therapies in well-being. We had an experience of music therapy together as a group and begun to see how the relationship between a therapist, young person and art form connects and creates a safe, uninterrupted space together.
There was a session on the issues of well-being and mental health within a hospital setting. What helps lift the spirit from sore to soar? One of the chaplains from Birmingham Children’s Hospital outlined spiritual needs and explained how these heightened with mental distress and illness. The physical affecting the internal spirit and how the interior affects the physical.
Mental Health First Aid for Young People is training available to those working with young people. We had a summary of this contextualising the issues young people experience - depression, anxiety, suicide, psychosis, eating disorders and self-harm. These conditions have physical effects and impact emotions, behaviour and thinking. The protective factors that contribute towards mentally healthy children help to build connections, offer hope, strengthen identity, give meaning and help empower an individual with self- help strategies.
Our time was set within the backdrop of the story of the Exodus – journeying from the known into the unknown and God’s faithfulness throughout. A reading of the lament of Psalm 88 took us into the darkness and despair felt by many in these circumstances. The use of the Examen brought light and hope once again into our reflections.
This was a timely subject to reflect on and to consider how our churches might constructively respond to these issues and pastorally support young people and their families.
Resources to look out for:
The Children’s Ministry Network is a forum for those responsible for work with children nationally in denominations within Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) and Christian organisations in agreement with the aims of CTBI. The group meets twice a year for a conference on current issues faced by children and young people for the Church to respond well and for a business meeting of its members.
Sian Hancock is Coordinator – Children, Youth and Mission (CYM) and Director of the Centre for Family and Childhood Studies at Bristol Baptist College. She is a member of the Children, Young People and Families Round Table