Action Zones 

Finding Our Way 

2nd March 2018
Anna Heydon reports



A partnership between churches in Great Yarmouth and a Norfolk and Suffolk mental health care trust is exploring ways in which they can work together to tackle mental health issues

Mental Health and Church Communities: Finding our Way
Imagine Norfolk Together and NSFT working together in Great Yarmouth




Mental Health problems are a significant problem in Great Yarmouth. The borough has a higher proportion of people claiming for incapacity benefit / severe disablement allowance where the claim is for Mental Health reasons than England, East of England or Norfolk.i For those of us living in the area, this is not just a statistic, it is a reality which affects many of our lives and the lives of those we care about. My own experience of depression has been mirrored in the lives of countless friends, along with self-harm, anxiety, psychosis and even overdoses. As I have talked to others in local churches, I have quickly discovered similar experiences across the board. Members of congregations struggling with their mental health and people coming to the church looking for help with their mental health

The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) was put into special measures first in 2015 and then again in 2017. Concern was also expressed about the number of unexpected deaths of those using their services.ii Nevertheless, what is also evident in Great Yarmouth and the NSFT is that there are many professionals who are committed and passionate about improving the situation for those experiencing mental health problems locally. Part of this commitment includes a desire to work closely with others in the area to find solutions through partnership and collaboration

When Anna Heydon (Development Worker, Imagine Norfolk Together) and Julie Warren (Chaplain, NSFT) met and talked, it seemed natural to encourage partnership between the NSFT and churches to support the development of good mental health in our borough. The first step towards this would be an event to bring local Christians and members of the NSFT together to discuss mental health and how the Church in Great Yarmouth could be part of the solution

Finding our Way: Mental Health Event


On 25th November 2017 over 40 people from 13 different churches and organisations in the Great Yarmouth area came together for the event "Finding our Way: Mental Health and church communities". The event was hosted by Park Baptist Church who also provided lunch and refreshments

The day was opened by Julie Cave, Interim Chief Executive of the NSFT. Topics included: mental health awareness, spirituality and mental health, mental health provision in the area, introduction to dementia and practical strategies, breathing and mindfulness, and personal accounts of mental health problems. A range of speakers from the NSFT introduced the topics, including a Dementia Trainer, Peer Recovery Tutor, Service Manager, and Wellbeing Local Associate Coordinator

The second half of the day focused on small group discussions. The following questions were discussed:


- What has stood out for you today? Responses included “Listening and valuing people” “Personal testimony is always powerful.” “Everyone’s journey is different” “To be a good listener. Don’t give people labels. Don’t tell people what to do.” “Positive discussions” “Impact the openness to work together is having.” “Seeing the PERSON and their gifts NOT the condition” “Enthusiasm for working together to raise awareness and reduce stigma”

- What can you, we do straight away? Some of the suggestions were: “Being wholly inclusive” “Listen patiently and actively without judgement.” “Rate your mental health at beginning of homegroup.” “Resources at back of church with leaflets” “Churches need to accept the resource people with “lived mental health” experience NOT see them as an issue to be solved” “Learn to improve our dialogue between the church / organisations and service users.” “Dementia toolkits for over 50s group” “Positive verse on event invites” “Quiet space for anyone who is overwhelmed”

- What do you, we need in terms of training, workshops, etc.? Feedback included “Create better links with NSFT” “Making the Champion training available to all the church people so we can love and support each other better in the ebbs and flows of life.” “What it feels like to have...” “Open up Community Champion training to whole church to encourage all to be responsible” 


- What are your hopes / ideas / dreams for your church and area? Some of the ideas were: “No hurdles to support” “Breakdown of stereotypes” “Freedom to help without fear.” “Mental health church rebuilt and mental health drop-in café to be fully running on all cylinders.” “Community hub base with a mental health counsellor.” “All young people to have early help available to them” “Greater sense of hope and achievement and pride in the community.” “A mental health service that meets the needs of those living in the community” “There should be connections / communication between church, the community and professionals” “To partner with things already going on in the community, i.e. well walks, drama groups for those with mental health issues” “Greater unity between churches to work together and deliver God’s love into our communities”

The feedback from the event has been very positive, for example: “I have come away with several action points that I can work on straight away as well as the resources to start longer term projects. This has been invaluable.” “Very eye-opening, I learned a lot, but in a way that I can use in future.” “Inspiring and changed a lot of my thinking! Looking forward to more!” “Good for the Trust to be engaging with the community they serve – more joint working would be good.” “Very reflective, lots of insight gained” “Well worth coming for with a range of helpful talks.” “Eye-opening as to what church opportunities there are. Excellently brought together.” “Really encouraged by the positivity of everyone. Great talks and lots to think about.” One suggestion for improvement was that there might be more focus on spirituality




Shortly after the ‘Finding our Way’ event, Julie Warren invited members of local churches to come and lead carol-singing for a Christmas services for patients at Northgate Hospital. Due to the short notice and proximity to Christmas only 5 representatives from 2 local churches were able to attend, however both staff and patients were extremely enthusiastic and grateful and keen for further involvement from local churches. Consequently a service is being organised to celebrate Easter, to which members of local churches will again be invited. A prayer meeting for the NSFT in Northgate Hospital organised by members of local churches was also welcomed and supported by Imagine Norfolk Together, and it was wonderful that approximately 25 people from a range of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston churches were able to gather together and pray for the NSFT
In response to the feedback at the ‘Finding our Way’ event, Community Champion training has been planned for March, and is to be open to members of all local churches. This training is limited to 20 places, but further sessions will also be organised if there is sufficient demand



It is very much hoped that joint working between the NSFT and local churches (supported by Imagine Norfolk Together) can continue and expand. Discussion is already underway about future training and partnership activities. There is also discussion around running a joint Imagine Norfolk Together and NSFT event in King’s Lynn. We hope and pray that some of the hopes and dreams which people expressed at the Great Yarmouth event can become a reality
Anna Heydon (Development Worker, Imagine Norfolk Together) and Julie Warren (Chaplain/ Spiritual/ Pastoral Care Lead, NSFT)

i Great Yarmouth Borough Profile, 2017
ii Verita report, May 2016