St George’s in Stamford is to become a ‘spoke’ to the Lincolnshire Mental Health Crisis Hub by holding specific mental health sessions as part of its Friday Connect café which is open to those in need who need a chat over a cup of tea. Over time this will be widened out to cover more days of the week. It is hoped to be fully operational by April 2020 with some initial partnership working  commencing over the course of the summer.

Although Stamford is a relatively affluent area, pockets of deprivation exist. The less well-off someone is, the more likely they are to suffer from mental health problems and experience abusive relationships. Combined with other factors such as obesity, smoking and drinking, these lead to poor physical health with people suffering from heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes.

The café expansion is the brain child of Dr Dan Petrie, a local GP and member of St George’s church who is passionate about mental health and wellbeing and having a grass roots approach to tackling it. He founded a charity called Mind Space (Stamford Mental Health) in 2015 with the aim of creating an empathic community where all citizens flourish.

Dr Petrie said: “I really want to bring the two great superpowers of church and state together so we can match up faith with action and social justice. The church is very good at doing the hard work of caring as its people see helping others as a tangible way of doing God’s work. Being neighbourly and supporting our local citizens who need help is what a community is supposed to be about. In days gone by, issues were dealt with on the street and I can’t stress enough the need and importance of connection, of community.”

The aim is that the hub will be able to do more preventative work to stop people having mental health crises that then require more serious medical interventions. This will include having more psychiatric nurses available at the sessions as well as more volunteers who are trained in mental health. The hub will work alongside the ‘statutory services’ such as the neighbourhood teams that incorporate all the staff that are needed to care for an individual including GPs, social care services and voluntary organisations. Other partners include the Job Centre and they have already visited the café to see how it could work and are very positive about moving forwards.  

“People with mental health problems often need help quickly; and although in the state sphere there is generally a long waiting list and various referral criteria people have to meet to get to see a counsellor; there is no such thing required to get help from the church.  Here, people just come alongside and walk that journey with you.

“It would be my dream to be able to write a manual in two-three years about how the church has completely transformed the lives of the most vulnerable in society by bringing together those who need help, with the necessary statutory bodies, to seek resolutions to their problems with the big difference being that it is done with love, compassion and faith.”