Mental health overtakes drug and alcohol misuse as most serious community issues, poll reveals

People suffering from mental health symptoms are increasingly turning to their local church as they feel as though available NHS services are letting them down, a new poll has revealed.

The report, published by charity Church Urban Fund, found that the proportion of clergy who thought mental health was a serious community issue rose from 40 per cent in 2011 to 60 per cent in 2017.

The same survey also revealed that 76 per cent of clergy members thought loneliness and isolation was a serious problem.

Alarmingly, mental health issues had overtaken other problems including debt, family breakdowns and drug and alcohol misuse.

The Reverend Laura Leatherbarrrow said: “The wait for counselling in this area is something like 17 weeks.”

“There just aren’t the people out there to pick up these people who are not necessarily in the major league of mental health illnesses, so we’re not talking about people who are having major meltdowns, but you’re talking about people with depression, anxiety, bipolar.

“Those type of people who aren’t spotted early on anymore because there aren’t the support groups out there, or the mental health nurses, on the beat to pick them up, so they are becoming sicker because there just isn’t the care out there so people can journey with them.”

Paul Hackwood, Executive Director of Church Urban Fund, added: “Churches’ long-term presence in local communities means they are typically embedded in – and actively nurturing – networks of relationships. This report shows that they are playing a vital and significant part in responding to many of the challenges we face as a society, especially around issues such as loneliness, mental health problems and financial difficulties.”

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