Mental health: time our churches faced up to the challenge

ByDave Hall

Mental health: time our churches faced up to the challenge

Cheryl was about to get married and to everyone else her life looked good – but the 24-year-old medical student was hiding a deep depression.

The wedding came and went and things only got worse. Overwhelmed by dark thoughts, some days she even struggled to get out of bed.

‘My church had been incredibly supportive in helping to organise the wedding with many friends stepping in to help with flowers, food and decorations,’ recalls Dr Cheryl Hawkins (pictured above). ‘But no one realised how I was struggling.’

Eventually she got better and graduated as a doctor, quickly specialising in mental health. As a psychiatrist she saw Christians and non-Christians alike who struggled with the condition.

‘I also saw people in my church with similar issues and noticed they weren’t always well supported,’ she explains. ‘The church was great when someone had broken their leg, had a baby or were diagnosed with cancer, but when it came to mental health issues people didn’t seem to know the best way to help. They feared saying something wrong, or just failed to see that the person was struggling.

‘Like myself all those years ago, many people with mental health issues hide what they are going through, worrying about what people might think of them if they find out, so the issues are not even seen.’

Four years ago, Cheryl started delivering Mental Health First Aid training to businesses and schools. She has now produced a unique range of biblically-based courses to address the increasing number of mental health needs in churches. In 2022 she launched Encourage Mental Health CIC and this will be the focus of her stand at CRE Midlands 23.

She will also talk on ‘Bridging the gap: how to support mental health in your church’ (Thu 9 Nov, 3.30pm).

• Encourage Mental Health are on stand DS32 at CRE Midlands 23

Photograph: Dr Cheryl Hawkins

Book your ticket for CRE Midlands 2023 here from as little as £3

Organisations looking to book a stand should contact James Batterbee 0161 250 2306 (E: or Carol Malpass 0161 250 2467 (E:

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