How The Church Of England Treats It’s Mentally Ill

There is going to be a whole load of stuff about mental health issues on the BBC for two weeks starting 15th. February.

But what is the point?

It may get people to speak differently but it won't get people to act differently in their relationships with those suffering from, or who have suffered from, mental illness. This is especially true when it comes to employment. If a person who has suffered from mental illness applies for a job the chances of that person being seriously considered is remote. A pregnant woman would stand more chance of being offered a job. This is why the British government has brought in laws to give those with mental health probems some protection at work. The following is taken from the MIND website:

You don't have to be 100% better or well to do your job, or at least some of it, and the benefits of returning to work generally outweigh the downsides.

If you already have a job that is still open for you, talk to your GP about going back to work. They can give you advice as part of your fit note. The fit note includes space for your GP to give you general advice about the impact of your illness, and to suggest ways your employer could support your return to work.

You may then like to arrange a meeting with your employer or occupational health adviser. You can discuss anything that concerns you about returning to work, including your GP's recommendations, and ask for some adjustments to make the transition back into work easier.

Under the Equality Act (2010), your employer has a legal duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' to your work.

Depending on your particular circumstances, you might like to ask about:

... flexible hours – for instance, you might like to return part-time, or start later in the day if you're sleepy from medication in the mornings

... support from a colleague in the short or long term

... a place you can go for a break when needed.

This is all well and good unless, like me, you have the misfortune of working for the Church of England, who are exempt from this legislation. This allowed the Bishop of Newcastle to demand that I retire when I asked for a stepped return to work. When I refused to go quietly, he demoted me, put me on short term contracts and insisted that I saw "counsellors" who reported back to him. Eventually, after a couple of years when I had no contract whatsoever, he sacked me and I have been unemployed for five years now. No other bishop will offer me a job or even their pastoral support. Their excuse is that I have "too much baggage" and that I'm angry which, of course, I am. Theology is the most useless degree imaginable unless you are in God-related employment and I'm too old to retrain and, in any case, I can't afford to.

Of course, all this makes my mental health situation even worse. It's like being kicked when you are down. I don't need counselling or spiritual direction, I need my job back. It is the one thing that would aid my continued recovery and make me happy. It is also the one thing the bishops refuse to contemplate even though I worked for eight years after being discharged from hospital without taking a single day off for ill health, mental or physical.

I am not making this up as this further extract from the MIND website proves:

Although work can cause stress for some people in some situations, recent research shows that for most people:

... work is beneficial to health and wellbeing

... not being in work is detrimental to health and wellbeing

... re-employment after a period of being out of work leads to an improvement in health and wellbeing

The benefits of being in work can include:

... a greater sense of identity and purpose

... an opportunity to build new friendships

... an improved financial situation and security

... a feeling that you're playing an active part in society

Going back to work after a period of ill health is usually a positive experience. This applies to people who have had severe mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, as well as people coping with more common issues, such as anxiety.

I would have been better off working in a gas station than working for the Church of England, so I repeat...



How The Church Of England Treats It’s Mentally Ill — 2 Comments

  1. Presumably you saw counsellors who reported back to the bishop of Newcastle. I wonder what they said to prompt him to sack you. (Don’t tell me you refused to see counsellors!) Perhaps your continued resentments on this blog prevent any bishop from offering you employment. The contents of a blog can themselves be a bar to employment.

    • I assume that my blogging has a lot to do with why I cannot get a job but I didn’t start the blog until I had endured the bigotry for five years. My anger is a response to what was done to me. People like yourself expect me to put up with discrimination without getting angry and without complaining about it. I cannot do that as to do so will increase the chances of it happening to somebody else and strip me of my integrity (something that it is absolutely necessary to maintain if you have no other worth in life).

      The reason the bishop asked me to retire in the first place was that he believed that a person who suffered from depression could not put up with the stress of being a parish priest and so should never be a parish priest. Nothing more sinister than that.