Parish Groups, Nursing and Mental Health

02/10/2013 4:18 pm

Joanne Bird

Joanne Bird, a Mental Health nurse from Nuneaton, leads the ‘St Dymphna Befriending Group’ – bringing together a group of volunteers from her parish to support all those in the Rugby deanery who experience mental distress.

Initially the group aimed to support anyone who experiences “functional” mental illness (schizophrenia, bi-polar affective disorder, depression, or anxiety based illness) but it was soon agreed that the support would be for those who experience “organic” type mental illness too (dementia etc).

In this podcast, she explains how the group challenges the barriers that those with mental health difficulties often experience:

“We began by offering educational sessions in the parish to help break the stigma around mental illness. This led to the formation of a group of trained volunteers. Gradually we invited members in to be supported by the volunteers. Once this was up and running in the parish, we opened our doors to other local parishes, then local mental health teams, GP practitioners, homeless shelters, places where we knew there would be more contact with people with mental health difficulties. Amongst other activities, the allotment that we help organise was a great place for meeting and working alongside others”.

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand. We need to break down the stigma that is attached to mental illness, we’ve been trying breakdown the barriers by offering education, support, and simply being good role models for people so that they can see that those with mental illness are just people who happen to have an illness, it could happen to any of us!”

Jo also talks about the focus of World Mental Health Day - the pastoral care of older people:

“Statistically one in three people will have some sort of dementia-related illness over the age of 65; mainly anxiety, depression due to loss of loved-ones, we need to support the growing elderly population”.

Jo concludes by offering a simple suggestion to make parishes more welcoming:

“Ways to help? Simply smiling at those with mental difficulties or saying good morning at Mass, making them feel part of the community”.


You can listen to or download the podcast by using the player and link in the top right-hand corner of the page.

Duration: 12m 8s


You can subscribe via RSS (feed) or iTunes. Just click on the links or the buttons below.

Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS

Related Link

The 'St Dymphna Befriending Group' on the official website for the Bishops' Conference Mental Health Project


The music used in this podcast is 'The Moments of Our Mornings' by Kai Engel.


Jo Bird

Jo Bird is a mental health nurse with over 12 years of experience in the field.   jo-bird-mental-health.mp3 7.02 MB