By Edna Hunneysett
Key Themes: depression, spirituality, empowerment, mental health services
The author seeks answers to a series of questions. Is care extended in Christian communities towards people with mental illnesses? Do Christians know what kind of support people with mental illnesses and their families need? Does Christian faith make a positive difference to how such people are treated? Are Christian ministers trained in this aspect of ministry? The study sets the context for contemporary attitudes by an outline of the history of how mental illness has been understood by theologians, and also within Christian congregations. The research component was an attitude survey of 592 people from a sample target of three denominations, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Evangelical/Pentecostals. The result demonstrated more supportive attitudes than are evident among the general public. At the same time, there were indications of a lack of knowledge, and the need for better education at every level. There is a real need to raise awareness, so that the negative aspects of mental health difficulties can be addressed, and the stigmatization and discrimination prevalent in society can be challenged.
About the Author
Edna Mary Hunneysett was born in 1940 near Stratford-upon-Avon, but in her infancy, the family returned to a small rented hillside farm on the North Yorkshire moor where she spent her childhood with six siblings. After passing her eleven plus examination, she attended a convent boarding grammar school for six years. She married in 1961 and after bringing up eight children, she began her academic career. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in Divinity in 1995 and gained an MA with distinction in 1998. She spent a further six years under the tutorship of a Professor at St John’s College at the University of Durham, researching attitudes towards people with mental illnesses with specific reference to Christian Congregations. Currently, as well as supporting her family and sixteen grandchildren, she facilitates pastoral support groups, a monthly one for carers of people with mental illnesses and the other, weekly, for people in the community who have a mental illness. She also speaks in churches and other venues raising awareness on the need for support for families where a member has a mental illness.