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How faith can be a key part of helping people on their journey to recovery

By, The Revd Philip Evans - Lead Chaplain, St Andrew’s Healthcare

I have been a chaplain at St Andrew’s for six years.  One of the first patients I met made a big impact on me.  A young woman, she was in great distress, deep mental anguish, and constantly observed to prevent serious self-harm. 

Six months later she was radically transformed, in her right mind, confident, able to converse happily, and reflect on her journey of recovery.  I asked her what was the biggest factor in her changing so much, and without hesitation she said, “My faith in God.” 

I was taken aback (I shouldn’t have been!) – I know medication, therapy, nursing had all helped her hugely.  But it was to her faith that she attributed the biggest contribution.

Time and again, indeed every week, I meet patients for whom their faith makes a big difference – helping them to battle loneliness, anxiety, negative views of self, despair, loss, and lack of hope.  Our care for patients is only complete when spiritual care is integrated into the overall care for the patient, if that is what they choose.

At St Andrew’s the Chaplaincy has done some ground-breaking work exploring what patients report to be the mental health outcomes of their faith and spirituality, and we have even devised a way of measuring their impact over time. 

The results are clearly remarkable. 

We were invited to give a presentation to the Royal College of Psychiatrists last month, and this can be seen here. Next month our work is being shared internationally through a webinar run by the University of Texas!  There is a growing recognition of the real impact that faith makes to patients’ mental health – and of course to the health and wellbeing of us all.