Ginny Burgin
Coming out of lockdown - Mental Health

Now that there has been talk of easing the lockdown measures and getting things back up and running again I am aware that this raises a lot of subsidiary issues.  Some issues surrounding economics I think we have been aware of and are trying to prepare for in our churches.  But I wanted to draw attention to those issues concerning mental health and how the pandemic has maybe heightened or even caused mental health problems, around us in the general population and in our churches. 

I was planning to put together a paper on this subject but have found some excellent articles in the public domain which I have linked to at the bottom of this post. Suffice to say it has long been proven that enforced isolation, usually through say sickness or bereavement, if it goes on for a while can become an issue of voluntary self-isolation.  'Social anxiety' usually plays itself out in conditions such as the refusal to leave the house, panic attacks or even agoraphobia.  We have plans to ask some contacts to speak into this whole subject which we hope to be included in a seminar published by Jubilee+. 

Two specific groups of people

The reason I particularly wanted to draw attention to it is to make the point that:

1) there will be people in our churches who will, whilst maybe longing to get together again, be actually struggling with some of the feelings and psychological issues mentioned in the articles.  Therefore, we have to recognise that from the point of beginning to reassemble together as church, however small the groups, it is going to be messy for a good while with some folk throwing themselves into things and some not so sure, feeling daunted by it all and staying away.  It is going to be essential that we speak much of grace in this time and gently encourage folk whilst respecting any need they may have to still be somewhat isolated.   

2) to recognise that there will also be a group of people who have been joining our online services who have never joined us in person. Some of this group will also be battling with these issues too, so we have to think of ways to help them make the jump from an isolated meeting with church online, towards beginning to ease into actually meeting with some of those who are part of our church community. For some people it may take a long time for them to join in, in person meetings on Sundays or mid-week.

Why is this important?

I've drawn attention to this as we need to recognise that it is not simply a matter of organising different ways of meeting to help people re-gather.  It is about helping people feel easy with being with others again too.  Some people will not have been out of their front door or garden gate for five months.  In that time how the shopping is done, how a visit to the doctor is done, how transport works etc, has all changed massively, it's a big jump for a lot of people to negotiate!

Focus on what is certain

Having said all of that, and picking up on what one of the articles says - 'focus on what is certain' - we can encourage everyone with the reminder that we can trust God, He is certain.  He is for us, He brings us into family, He is not the author of isolation but of community and He is for us in stepping out in faith.  He is not the author of fear but of faith.  

I want to encourage our church leaders to begin thinking about these aspects of reconnection. It may take a long time for our churches to represent our whole community again. Whilst this is where we happen to be in the UK at the present time, these issues will become apparent across every nation when churches begin to restore gatherings to a more normal footing.

The Psychological Impact of Shielding - (The Conversationhttps://cccw.onl/38jcXOf 

Coming Out of Lockdown - (Mental Health Foundationhttps://cccw.onl/2BWLB4c