I spent some very illuminating hours at the Greater Manchester Faith in health conference today. It was hosted by St Luke’s Church in Longsight and organised by the Faith Network 4 Manchester. It caught my eye when I was reading through Macc’s weekly email updating voluntary and third sector organisations on all the amazing things going on in that vibrant sector. I’m interested in multi-faith activities. It seems to me that faith groups are at their best when they can put divisions aside and work together to create a more just and peaceful society.

Today, their myriad commitments to those struggling with mental health issues were vividly brought to life as they quizzed providers and representatives of Clinical Commissioning Groups and shared with us the work they themselves are doing. What was brought uncompromisingly to the fore was the dire state of provision in the country at the moment. Services are being slashed all over the place. I know first hand from family and friends how it is virtually impossible to get help. People are passed round services, admitted and turned away from A & E, promised support from Crisis Teams and then left to cope alone. And so often this leaves other vulnerable people, their carers, having to cope with terribly challenging circumstances.

But what stood out for me today was the determination to find ways to provide services. To find ways to connect with people. Women stood up and claimed their identities as women of faith but pointed out that the needs of women were not always at the forefront of the minds of the men who often run their communities. If health providers contact them in order to tick the faith box on their diversity lists then they will be missing key people. The diversity of people within faith groups was explained to those who tend to see them as a homogenous group. And they listened, perhaps a bit bemused, but they did listen.  We shall see what comes of it.

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