Mental peace campaign pays off

 Churchgoers in Billingham-on-Tees applauded after a mother-of-eight spoke over the weekend on raising awareness for pastoral support for people with mental health problems and their families. Mrs Edna Hunneysett, 67, of Middlesbrough, whose mother and youngest daughter experienced serious mental illnesses, was speaking at three Catholic churches to mark a high point in her 14-year campaign. Churches all over England and Wales held special collections - at the request of their bishops - for the annual Day for Life, which this year focussed for the first time on mental health. "I'm so pleased that my campaign is paying off. All I've been trying to achieve is to gain official support from the dioceses and parishes for people suffering from mental health problems and their families," said Mrs Hunneysett. The proceeds of the collection help the work of the Linacre Centre for healthcare ethics and other life-related activities supported by the Church. The Bishops' Conference is shortly hoping to appoint a worker - part-time at first - to expand mental health pastoral care throughout England, and Wales. Mrs Hunneysett started her campaign when her daughter Elizabeth became suicidal at 13. She sought pastoral help, but found none. "Fortunately a local priest Fr Eddie Gubbins listened to my plea. He prayed with me and was a real help. The upshot was that he and I started a monthly pastoral support group for others affected by their family and friends suffering from mental health problems. "This is still going. And recently a separate pastoral support group for sufferers has been started - they are being listened to and no longer feel alone. Sufferers feel accepted in a non-judgemental sharing situation." Mrs Hunneysett, who has been supported throughout by husband Ray, a retired teacher, has given talks in many churches, studied for a degree, wrote two books and lobbied bishops. She has spoken at national conferences and was pleased to receive an invitation last year to speak at the bishops' national day which focused on families, mental health and pastoral care in the Catholic community "I'm delighted at the blogs on the website of the Day for Life. These include Fr Gubbins saying sufferers were `always reassured when, after patient listening, I pray with them or pray over them.` And I can recognise several contributions from group members." Mrs Hunneysett, whose mother suffered from an obsessive compulsive disorder that affected her prayer life, said that Elizabeth, now 30, is a qualified teacher employed in a primary school. Last week Bishop Terry Drainey, of Middlesbrough, presented her with a medal for being a "guardian for mental peace." The pastoral support group for carers of people with mental illnesses meets on the last Thursday of each month at 7.30pm (except this month when the meeting is on July 24), at the Life office, Marian House, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, next to the Sacred Heart church, and sufferers from mental illhealth meet at the same place at 1pm every Monday. For more information see: http://www.dayforlife.org