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‘Mind Matters COI’ – our funding for the Church of Ireland’s mental health strategy

Group of people at mental health fundraising event

‘Mind Matters COI’ – our funding for the Church of Ireland’s mental health strategy

The Church of Ireland is a vibrant part of communities both north and south of the border. People interact differently with their parish rectors than they might do with a colleague at work, or a friend in a sports club. So the Church of Ireland wanted to explore how they could use their reach and resources to raise awareness of, and respond to, the mental health needs of people not just in the church community, but the wider community too.
How ‘Mind Matters COI’ came about
A group was set up to look at how the Church of Ireland could develop a long-term mental health strategy. Conversations began with Benefact Trust about the grants that were available for this type of project. Proposals were put forward for a Transformational Grant, focused on helping to create lasting change within the Church.
“It was a good partnership with Benefact Trust from the start. We received the go-ahead from them to put in our proposal, which was successful; and ‘Mind Matters COI ’was launched on World Mental Health Day in October 2020. Right from the start there was great support for this across the Church of Ireland,” explains Eddie Hallissey, Human Resource Manager and Project Team Member of Mind Matters COI. 
With the Covid-19 pandemic on its way, this three-year mental health promotion initiative couldn’t have come at a better time.
Essential funding for an evidence-based approach
The project was designed to be evidence based, which required a significant piece of primary research. “Without the financial support from Benefact Trust we would never have been able to do this – we had to engage experts to carry out the surveys and analyse the information,” explains Eddie, “and we’re committed to evaluating the project at the end of the process, to see what difference has been made.”
Key themes from the primary research
Firstly, it was perceived by those who responded to the survey that their faith was an important and integral part to good mental health. Secondly, it was found that the stigma surrounding poor mental health was an issue in the Church of Ireland. By reducing (and one day hopefully eradicating) this stigma, more people will feel as though they can talk openly about mental health issues. The survey also showed that a large number of clergy thought they would benefit from having greater support for their own mental health. The report can be found here.
The majority of the grant is now going to providing seed funding grants for local mental health initiatives, and for mental health awareness training for people within the Church. 
How Mind Matters COI is taking action
The action points split into two main areas.
1 - Training initiatives. 
This training will help clergy (or anyone else who participates) decide whether the person they’re talking to just needs a sympathetic ear at this time or should be signposted to a mental health services provider.
2 - Promotional initiatives. 

On World Mental Health Day 2021, the Church put out a call for mental health champions to come forward and lead on the promotion of mental health literacy. Driven by local communities, activities will be focused on encouraging people to speak openly and honestly about their mental health, and to make it clear that people will be supported rather than judged.

Sharing findings and changing perceptions
Within the initial proposal for Mind Matters COI was the promise that the findings from the research and evaluation would be shared. There will also be an all-Ireland conference at the end of the project on 20th October 2023 to share what has been learned across the process; to which other churches and organisations will be invited.
Eddie sums up: “In the future, if people are struggling with their mental health, we want them to feel that the Church is a welcoming and supportive place. That would be success.”
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Benefact Group's work

As a Trust, our ability to support and fund so many worthwhile causes, is made possible by the hard work of the award-winning specialist financial businesses that make up Benefact Group – which gives all its available profits to the Trust, sustaining our giving. As a part of the Benefact Group each business, whether it be in specialist insurance, investment management, broking or advisory shares the Trust’s ethos of giving back.