News News Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 13th – 19th May 2019 is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as Spiritualists we can help others to have better mental health by keeping in touch with them, and reaching out to combat the isolation that can harm any of us. Read this story to find one way that it can be done… Right here, write now! (Originally appeared in SNU Today, available in our online shop) Spiritualists, perhaps more than many, appreciate the transformational power of communication. Without it, we become lonely, or as the Campaign to End Loneliness describes it, “hidden citizens.” In pulling together a wide range of research, they have concluded that, “Loneliness is harmful to both our physical and mental health, as well as being a deeply painful experience.” When I spoke with Minister Val Williams, she shared this view, and the term hidden citizens was strongly echoed in her words. “It’s so easy for any of us to become invisible people. When something happens to us in life, on a physical, emotional or spiritual level, we can lose our confidence. After this, it’s not always easy to come back and we become isolated.” We’re not always aware of what is playing out in someone’s life, but Val uses her own strategies to reach into someone’s isolation and help them to remain connected. As a medium she is well known for communicating with the Spirit World, but as a Minister, many will not know about her use of the written word to communicate with those in this world. I wanted to learn more, feeling that we could all take inspiration from her actions in bringing our second principle alive. “There are many times when we realise that we haven’t seen someone for a while,” Val told me, “and that’s when we need to reach out and understand why. Many people find that Spiritualism provides them with an extended family, but circumstances can isolate people. After losing connection, many people don’t like to trouble others, and it becomes harder to re-establish contact.” “When someone has a bereavement we might want to phone them, but worry about intruding. When I do, I often hear the relief in their voice, so I know how important it is. But it’s in the aftermath of a death, when everyone around the bereaved person gets on with their life, when loneliness sets in. That’s when I write to people. There is a power in the written word, and when someone receives and holds a letter or card in their hand, they know that someone cares.” Val, who writes to people every week, shared many inspirational stories where a difference had been made. There have been many times, she told me, when she instinctively picked up the pen and wrote. Later on she discovered that her letter arrived at a significant time, like an anniversary of someone’s passing, and provided welcome strength. “We can all work for Spirit,” she affirms, “by being open to inspiration, and writing to someone who we haven’t seen for a while.” She has further ideas, and thinks that more of our churches could encourage letter writing to congregation members who haven’t been see for a while. “Even if there’s nothing wrong,” she reflects, “they will know someone cares, and this may help them to ask for support further down the line when they need it.” Another Spiritualist who takes great care to reach out to those at risk of isolation is the Union’s Almoner, Minister Marian Bishop. Her role sees her demonstrating our capacity to care for others. “When people are on their own, other people are their lifeline,” She says. “Many of our Pioneers were healing mediums, and we can follow in their footsteps, helping others through and showing members of our Spiritualist family that we care.” Marian told me that she hoped people felt reassured to know that the Almoner was there for times of need. Like Val, she has encouragement for us all, and reminded me that the healing power of communication is “simplicity itself. Let’s just let it happen!” Our personal responsibility for each other is a vital principle. Declining physical, mental and emotional health, particularly during older age, may prevent many Spiritualists from attending their church, be they congregation, medium, speaker or healer. Val and Marian’s work is a reminder that we can all have such a positive impact on these people by keeping the lines of communication open. For a Spiritualist, knowing that thoughts and healing are being sent has profound significance. We can only know it if it’s communicated to us, meaning it’s clearly time to take a leaf out of Val’s writing pad and stand up to loneliness. She is clearly committed to the art of letter writing, and says “Even the Post Office know me now…” Write on, Val! Alv Hirst If you know someone who needs help, start here!