After recent updates to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on depression, Kintsugi Hope’s Rachael Newham explains that they’re a start but church and community have a vital part to play in people’s recovery.
Updates to the new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on depression have had mental health in the press recently; the first time it’s been updated for over a decade, and on the whole it represents a positive shift in the treatment options offered, particularly for those with mild symptoms.
The headlines have emphasised the move towards offering behavioural or group exercise therapy before medication; but in truth these therapies have been a part of the existing guidelines, and does not represent any significant change to the treatments offered.
The main change to the guidelines is the emphasis on a patient’s right to choose the direction their treatment takes; regardless of whether that includes medication or psychological therapy.
Empowering people to have their preferences heard in relation to treatment options is an important and welcome step forward; but one it will do little to ease the long waiting times; with an estimated 1.6 million people currently waiting for mental health care.
It’s also vital that depression is recognised as an illness which requires a multi-faceted approach to recovery; and our churches and communities have a part to play. At Kintsugi Hope we want our wellbeing groups to be safe and supportive spaces in which people can explore their mental and emotional health, experience community and develop tools to cope with what life throws up; but this doesn’t mean that sometimes medication should be dismissed. For many, antidepressant medication is a vital part of recovery and can enable people to be well enough to engage with other therapies. There is such stigma towards psychiatric medication - and this guidance shouldn’t be used to further shame those for whom medication is the best option.
We need to work together to protect and care for one another’s mental health.
We are aware that Kintsugi Hope wellbeing groups can be just one marker on the map of wellbeing; with exercise, medication and talking therapies all playing their own part during peoples recovery. Our groups aren’t made to be diagnostic or clinical, but spaces to explore how we face difficult emotions like anger and anxiety, cultivate positive mental health and provide signposts to other organisations and services which might be beneficial.
With rising anxiety throughout the country amidst the new Omnicrom variant and the reintroduction of masks; we need to work together to protect and care for one another’s mental health. Our NHS was borne out of the desire to care as the country recovered from World War Two - perhaps now is the time to refresh this vision of working together; with the government, health service, communities and churches pulling together.
Ultimately it is only through God that we can experience peace.
Wellbeing isn’t something that can be achieved with medication or exercise alone or a single organisation, each are members of the village it takes to encourage and promote wellbeing. But more than that, it is about experiencing something like the shalom of God. Shalom is a Hebrew word which can be translated as peace, but also has a wider and deeper meaning which conveys wholeness, friendship and justice. Ultimately it is only through God that we can experience shalom; but our churches can be sanctuaries of shalom where we can meet with one another to worship the Lord and share shalom amongst us. Sharing shalom might be through giving space for friendships at a Senior’s lunch club or toddler group, partnering with organisations to fight for justice or running a Kintsugi Hope Wellbeing group. However we seek to serve the communities we find ourselves in, we pray that we can work together and find that we are sustained by God’s shalom.