Quakers set up mental health group

‘Mental health is a key issue in a pandemic and we came together bringing our own frailties and sorrows.'

Friends have formed a national mental health group in response to the challenges caused by the pandemic. Seventy-seven people attended the second meeting of the Quaker Voices on Mental Health group online on 30 January.

Alison Mitchell, mental health development officer at The Retreat in York, told the Friend: ‘Mental health is a key issue in a pandemic and we came together bringing our own frailties and sorrows. We held each other in the light, listening and learning and sharing.’

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed a large strain on people’s mental health, with some reports suggesting that as many as ten million people, including 1.5 million children, need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the crisis.

But a recent study reported in The Guardian last week suggested that the figures have been overstated, with experts saying they have seen ‘an overall reduction in the number of people who report “above threshold” levels of psychiatric symptoms’. In total, they say about a quarter of the population is suffering, with ‘the majority of the population (56.5% in the case of anxiety and depression) showing no evidence of mental illness at any time’.

Alison Mitchell said that, at the Quaker Voices on Mental Health meeting, Friends ‘talked about their feelings of isolation, of feeling more anxious, of not being able to do the things or see the people that usually give them comfort. People talked about the constant worry, the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next, the low-level anxiety and stress seen in sleep difficulties, being more tetchy, in eating too much or not enough’. She added that many projects supported by the Quaker Mental Health Fund have been suspended, ‘meaning Friends are less able to engage actively in their communities’.

More than eighty Friends have accessed six sessions of therapy at The Retreat in York since June. The sessions are paid for by the Quaker Mental Health Fund as a response to the pandemic.

Friends can join Quaker Voices on Mental Health by emailing quakervoicesonmentalhealth@gmail.com.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.