Fighting for mental health in Dorset
One of the biggest impacts of the Covid lockdowns was on mental health – with most social contact forbidden, people were left isolated and lonely and struggling to cope.
A sense of fear and hopelessness drifted across much of the country, with much of the population afraid of falling sick, afraid of losing their jobs and homes, and even afraid of each other.
It was a terrible time for almost everyone, but among the groups hit hardest by the pandemic response were poorer people and the neurodivergent – those with any of a range of conditions which mean they have different strengths to others, but also face different challenges.
These can include such things as autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and learning difficulties, as well as lesser-known issues.
The minister and fellowship from Hazelbury Bryan Methodist Church are working hard to help people through those dark times, especially targeting low-income families in their rural Dorset village.
Their Encounter initiative aims to bring people together with God through reflection on Biblical examples, prayer, wellbeing, and enjoying activities and crafts.
‘Encounter looks at fresh ways to help people encounter God,’ said Deacon Rebekah-Joy Spinks. ‘We started looking at this through the perspective of mental health for children, but the parents have been sticking around because they’re enjoying us too, so it’s become intergenerational.
‘We were determined to be really inclusive, with a neurodiverse membership – that’s close to my own heart, because I’m neurodivergent – and particularly focusing on Kingston, the lower-income area of Hazelbury Bryan. The village is composed of seven hamlets, five of which are very wealthy, but Kingston is particularly impoverished and ignored.
‘We’re working on improving the mental health of people in that area in ways which are tied into the Bible and spirituality – we want them to see their self-worth as people made in the image of God.’
The award money will provide mental health activity packs for the local school and for struggling families, and broadband to help those who can’t afford home computers access mental health resources online.
‘In the short term we feel this will help the community by supporting mental health generally, after what was a very challenging pandemic period,’ said Rebekah-Joy. ‘In the longer term, we hope that encouraging the development of robust mental health amongst the economically fragile will enable their empowerment.
‘Technological poverty is a real issue for the under privileged, so addressing that in the most vulnerable part of the village and enabling encounter within the community will bless us all and enrich our growing fellowship.’