Mental health & Christian leadership - conference on 23rd Oct

A day conference for Christian leaders, chaplains, student workers and anyone interested in looking after their own mental health and that of others. This will be held at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London on Wednesday 23rd October.

Lots of varied conference content and the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics… Theological input, panel discussions and a choice of workshops including exploring mental health first aid, supporting those in study, and worship and dementia.

The conference costs are £25 per person and you can find out more information and book your place here.

Come along and be inspired… learn together…

Develop skills and share good practice in this important area of ministry

For information contact

Tickets provided through Eventbrite

A Call to Action

The Free Churches Group working with the Blood Transfusion and Organ donation services facilitated a one day conference with BME Churches.

The aim of the day was to encourage more blood donors from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities to come forward to meet the needs of patients like Shaylah (See her story below) .

Certain conditions, such as sickle cell and thalassaemia, are more prevalent within these communities. And, some rare types are also only found within these communities. Patients who require regular blood transfusions benefit from receiving blood from donors with a similar ethnic background.



Shaylah has a rare condition and needs regular blood transfusions, even over Christmas, to keep her alive.

The seven year old needs blood transfusions every 3 weeks to treat the painful inherited blood disorder, sickle cell disease.

She had a stem cell transplant from her mum in April but complications mean she is unwell again and currently having regular transfusions.

Shaylah says: “It makes me feel better because sometimes I get really tired and once I get my super girl blood I feel strong like supergirl!

“Blood donors are my heroes. I would say a big big thank youuuuuu!! Thank you for being so kind and not being scared of needles like me and I would give them a cuddle for being so kind and chocolate because I love chocolate.”

Sickle cell disease is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect the red blood cells. The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia.

Sickle cell disease mainly affects people of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin. In the UK, it's particularly common in people with an African or Caribbean family background.

People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because they don't live as long as healthy blood cells and they can become stuck in blood vessels.

Sickle cell disease is a serious and lifelong condition, although long-term treatment can help manage many of the problems associated with it.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic donors are specifically needed right now because:

some patients who receive frequent blood transfusions need blood to be closely matched to their own

a number of blood conditions, like sickle cell disease which is treated through blood transfusions, most commonly affect black, Asian and minority ethnic people

the best match typically comes from blood donors from the same ethnic background.

Giving blood

While people from all communities and backgrounds do give blood, fewer than 5% of our blood donors who gave blood in the last year were from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

This is despite black, Asian and minority ethnic communities representing around 14% of the population. We want to try and readdress this balance.

If you have the sickle cell trait you can still become a blood donor.

For further information please visit here.

Participants also heard about the changes to the Organ Donation system – from ‘opt in’ to ‘opt out’.

From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered potential organ donors, unless they choose to opt out or are in one of the excluded groups. This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system. You may also hear it referred to as 'Max and Keira's Law'.

What do you have to do?

If you want to be an organ donor, the best way to record your choice is to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

If you do not want to be an organ donor, you should register a ‘refuse to donate’ decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This is also known as opting out.

If you are already registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register, and your decision remains the same, you should tell your family what you want.

If you want to change your decision, which is already registered on the NHS Organ Donor Register, you should amend your registration.

Whatever you decide, make sure you tell your family, so they can honour your choice.

For further information please visit here.

Is children's and young people's mental health getting worse?

This is a challenging question, with some worrying trends starting to emerge, so says a recent report from the NHS, as reported on the BBC news.

Many of us experience mental health issues at some stage in our lives and we may know children and young people in our churches and communities who are struggling right now with low esteem, poor mental health and anxiety.

You can read the report from the BBC HERE.

What can we do, as churches?

We can pray for our children and young people. We can pray for the services which support them at times of need.

We can pray for the work of our Free Church Healthcare Chaplains.

We can make our churches spaces where children and young people feel at ease to raise issues affecting them.

Perhaps there are ways that your church could support schools, youth groups and colleges pastorally?

Premier, a Christian broadcasting association have reported recently on this important topic and shared news about Action for Children Blues Programme - there may be activities and support groups as part of this programme running near you.

In your church lobby, why not display a Childline poster so those visiting can get free confidential advice and support if they need to?

You can also find out more about how to support children and families with online security here.

Christmas Reflection by Stephen Mugglin

Photo credit:  Freely Christian Photos

I came across the following when seeking out some words of wisdom for a carol service. Stephen Mugglin has captured the essence of ‘peace on earth’ and how there are times when we need to go and find that peace amid the busyness that is a constant presence in our place of work – the healthcare system, and times when we need to create that peace for those in our care.

Debbie Hodge

Christmas Reflection by Stephen Mugglin

High in the woods of Pengrove Pass, where the water and the sky seem to sing the same song, there stands in a clearing beside the lake a little log cabin built by a friend. It stands empty most of the year now, for the children who once played and laughed there have long since moved on. Still there isn’t any sadness, for each morning the dawn catches its own reflection in the stillness of the lake, and peace covers all.

Photo by  Charl van Rooy  on  Unsplash

I was scheduled to spend Christmas in Pengrove Mills, a town further down the river, but an unexpectedly busy autumn and fall had made me long again for the solitude of the mountains, at least for a little while, and so December found me in the cabin by the lake.

Mountains seem to have a wisdom all their own, and trees growing along the slopes in the pure air whisper their thoughts together in the silence. It’s a world of enchantment far and near, for the same snow that paints the distant hills also spreads a blanket over the cabin. Here earth and sky seem so close, mountain peaks just a snow-breath away, and time a cousin of eternity.

Photo by  Ngoc Lan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ngoc Lan on Unsplash

This was the year I celebrated Christmas twice - once in the cold loneliness of the hills, and later in the warmth of the town - once by myself in the calm of the night, and again with the sound of friends all around - once with the stars shining deep in the lake, and then with bright lights in every window. But much as I enjoyed the time in town, it was the silence around the cabin that reminded me most of the Song of the ages and the Light of the world. Alone on the hillside, I knew the peace that had come to earth.

Lessons learnt from World War One

Photo by  James Harris  on  Unsplash

Amid the destruction and chaos of WW1, and in response to the injuries sustained innovations in medicine and surgical techniques led to much that we take for granted today.

The need for cleanliness in caring for the wounded, the development of blood transfusions, the idea of triage ( the order of treatment dependant on need) are all common place now – if you go to Accident and Emergency Department you will see the Triage Nurse first who will prioritise your care. The National Blood Transfusion Service is now an integral part of our NHS. There was the development of the Thomas splint, for dealing with broken legs and of course the gas mask!

The words Shell Shock were used for those who were suffering from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - the verbal expression of trauma.

Those who declared themselves unable to cope, through shell or combat shock or devastating loss of comrades, were generally treated as malingerers rather than victims.

Few doctors, with the notable exception of W.H Rivers and Arthur Brock at Craiglockhart Hospital for victims of shell shock, explored the verbal expression of trauma. Before 1917, treatment for shell shock involved being forbidden to talk about the war. One officer, treated by Rivers at Craiglockhart, said ‘that it was obvious to him that memories such as those he had brought with him from the war could never be forgotten. Nevertheless, since he had been told by everyone that it was his duty to forget them he had done his utmost in this direction. It was felt that silence settled the mind, and that unpleasant memories could be replaced by means of pleasant activities such as walking and sports. An advertisement in the Pall Mall Gazette (8 May 1919) read: ‘So bury all those unpleasant memories in Dora’s waiting grave … and get your Austin Reed straw hat to signalise the event’ [DORA was the Defence of the Realm Act].

A poem by Cecil Lewis demonstrat1es this aspect of war and reminds us all of not only PTSD, but other mental health issues in society today:

War is never over

Though the treaties may be signed

The memories of the battles

Are forever in our minds

War is never over

So when you welcome heroes home

Remember in their minds they hold

Memories known to them alone

War is never over

All veterans know this well

Now other wars bring memories back

of their own eternal hell

War is never over

For I knew world war two

And I'll not forget the battles

Or the nightmares that ensue

War is never over

Those left home to wait know this

For many still are waiting

It was their farewell kiss

War is never over

Though we win the victory

Still in our minds the battles

No freedom is not free

Revd Debbie Hodge
Secretary for Healthcare Chaplaincy, Free Churches
Project Officer NHS Chaplaincy Project