BY Ryan McDougall | December 7 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Catholics in Stirling reach out to people ‘suffering in silence’ with mental illness

Catholic parishioners in Stirling are planning a new initiative to help combat mental illness and reach out to those at risk of suicide.

Divine Mercy representatives and other volunteers are to come together outside the Thistles Shopping Centre on Tuesday December 11, and again on the following Tuesday December 18, where anyone who might be dealing with a mental illness is welcome to approach the group for a friendly chat and information.

The group has stocked up on leaflets and booklets on a wide range of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and beyond.

They will also be giving out prayer cards dedicated to St Dymphna, the patron saint of mental illnesses and, consequently, psychologists and other experts in the field.

The initiative is a Church-led effort that aims to help on a personal level those who are at risk, and many of the volunteers have had friends or family who have fought mental illnesses or have taken their own lives.


Divine Mercy

The idea was pitched by David Wilson of Divine Mercy Scotland, who has a close relative who once faced a serious mental health crisis from which he has thankfully recovered.

He also had another family member who sadly ended his own life after living with a mental illness.

Mr Wilson joined the Church three years ago and has since dedicated much of his life to leading the fight against suicide, a crisis he says has only worsened in recent years.

After witnessing suicide and mental illness in his own life, as well as in the lives of many of his friends and acquaintances, he felt it was time to take action on a parish level, and said he was inspired by the work the Legion of Mary do for people living with dementia.


Suffering in silence

Referring to a video he watched, he said: “There was a priest in the video who said the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is essentially America’s suicide capital.

“A person had written a letter saying, ‘Today I’m going to go to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off,’ but he said that if someone were to stop him and smile, it would be enough to stop him. He jumped.”

The video, as well as other personal experiences, inspired Mr Wilson and his team to take on the role of giving people the opportunity to open up about their feelings, or even just stop for a friendly, uplifting chat and some advice.

“A lot of people suffer in silence,” he said. “To be honest, although this is still in its infancy, it has to start somewhere. When you do anything like this, it’s trial and error to an extent, but the important thing to remember is when you start something like this it might help others a lot in the long run.

“Even just a smile can be enough sometimes.”

Mr Wilson added that, as Christians, they cannot simply walk away from an issue that ‘involves and hurts us all.’


Parish approval

The weekly gatherings have been welcomed and endorsed by the local priests in Stirling, who would like the initiative to become a regular, on-going thing, Mr Wilson said.

He is also to undertake an eight-week course, followed by another two-week one, on how to better support those who wish to open up about such personal issues, in an effort to maximize the help he and his fellow volunteers can give.

The Divine Mercy representatives are hopeful they can make a difference, and plan to keep the gatherings going each week as long as their endeavour is a success.

“Whether it’s 10 or 20 people, or even just one, we’ll be happy,” Mr Wilson said.

The group will gather at the bottom of King Street in the pedestrian area on both dates from 6.30–7.45pm.

The spot is next to the Thistles Shopping Centre, and is a short walk from Stirling train station.


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