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look out for loved ones living with mental health issues this Christmas.

The hodos community, working to enhance the role spirituality can play in recovery from mental health difficulties, is urging the churches to help members, parishioners, friends, and contacts experiencing a mental health problem this Christmas to experience the Christmas that Jesus came to bring - not the one society expects.

the positive story

Christmas is a festival about Jesus coming arriving in the world to be its Saviour, in the most fragile way imaginable as a human child born into civil strife and turmoil. Because of his birth his family became refugees - an experience accompanied by enormous stress then as now.

This story, the story of Christmas, is open to celebration by all whatever distress, suffering, or illness they experience.

all to often submerged by problems

The commercial pressures imposed onChristmas, mean that the overwhelming emotions that this Christmas may in fact be may be worry, pain and fear. mental distress, debt, loneliness.

Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, England's ambitions anti-stigma campaign, commented about Christmas society expects us to have:

"People with a mental health problem often say that Christmas is a more stressful and lonely time of year because of the pressure to be upbeat and to have the perfect day."

Lisa, part of the hodos community, reflecting on living with mental health issues as a Christian at Christmas:

"Christmas is a time of high pressure for people without mental health problems. When you are already stretched to your limit, adding Christmas to the mix, means that there are so many more things you just can't get done, so many people who are going to be let down. It just makes you feel sad and lonely."

The rate of mental health difficulties in Southampton is an unfolding tragedy. A minimum of 5230 of people, or 3% of the working population are so severely affected by mental health difficulties that they are unable to work. 60,000 are likely to be affected to some degree at this Christmas.

Note that these numbers are not equally distributed across the city. Rates are highest in areas of deprivation. We have published a map of overall worklessness

What then should we do?

That was the question asked by the Jews baptised by John before the start of Jesus' ministry. It might be your question now. We want to encourage you that you as an individual can help.

Lisa said:

"The thing about Christmas is that God comes to a broken world and he brings the light of God. The best thing we can do at Christmas is be the light of God to the broken people we can see around us."

Being the light of God means with people with mental health difficulties is straightforward. Look out for friends and neighbours who you know are struggling.

  • give time,
  • meet people where they are,
  • listen very carefully,
  • don't judge - you may not agree with the person - but their emotional experience is real, and often very painful.
  • respond prayerfully.
  • if you feel out of your depth - link them up with a church leader if they wish, or signpost them using our crisis page.

The darkness is passing. The light of God is at hand. In all you do act to lighten the darkness. Whether you light a candle, or buy a sandwich, or babysit for the the single mum next door, lighten the darkness.

fantastic corporate engagement

We also want to recognise the great work done by so many of the Churches across the city over many years in offering Christmas lunch, donating to Basics Bank, or to the Society of St James, and many other initiatives.

support hodos

If you would like to help hodos in its work or to find out more: