The problems facing our mental health services, particularly regarding lack of funding, have repeatedly made the headlines in recent months. Specific problems have included the sporadic provision of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) across the country meaning that some children and young people have had to travel hundreds of miles to get the care or beds they need. This suggests that there is a widening gap between what is set aside for physical health needs, and that made available for mental health services, a very worrying trend if indeed true. Politicians have responded by saying that there needs to be greater parity of esteem between physical and mental health sectors if we are to tackle the increasing mental health needs of our citizens.

 

As a parent who has accessed the support of a local CAMHS I can speak very highly of the care, attention and professionalism we have received from them. It has made a difficult time bearable, to the extent that I don't know what I would have done without their intervention. To have travelled hundreds of miles to have received this care or to not have received it at all does not bear thinking about. Furthermore, I'm proud to be part of a denomination and a Synod which have pledged their efforts and resources towards reducing the stigma of mental ill health. Like the politicians, these are vital statements of intent, but they must be backed up with action if we are to continue to give these issues the importance they deserve on our agendas.

As we come into the season of peace and goodwill, the wider health and well-being of our members, friends and communities should be at the forefront of our minds. For many, Christmas, instead of being a time of joy, merriment, family and festivity, will be tainted by despair, loneliness and anxiety. We don't like to think about it, but Christmas often sees an increase in breakdowns and family rifts due to the perilously high expectations placed upon it. Whether the pressures are financial, emotional or relational, the results are often the same, and without the services we would like available to respond to these needs more community groups, such as churches, will need to play their part.

Yet isn't this precisely what Christmas is all about? Jesus came to live alongside us so that we might know the love and support of our eternal God. And now Christ's incarnational living must be mirrored by our own.

We as God's people are called to pitch up our tents alongside the lost and lonely this Christmas so that they too may know the love and support of God. This really is the reason for the season, a reason through which we can discover more joy and purpose than can ever be found at the bottom of a Christmas stocking!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas and New Year,

Tim