Mental Health Chaplaincy innovates to provide much-needed service

Finding chaplains to serve in the area of mental health is a difficult job, says the lead Chaplain for Capital and Coast District Health Board, Rev Canon Kath Maclean.  However a new internship has allowed the service to attract and train talent, aiming to improve awareness and skill in mental health chaplaincy across the diocese.

The internship is supported by the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy (ICHC), the Capital and Coast District Health Board, The Wellington Hospital Chaplaincy Trust and our diocese. Finding funding for the internship was a challenge.  “It’s been a ten-year journey,” Kath tells us, “it’s hard to find people who want to work in mental health, so we decided we needed to train our own.”  The Wellington Hospital Chaplaincy Trust, which has previously supported chaplains in Wellington, asked Kath to present her ideas to them, and in turn agreed to fund the internship for three years.  “They’ve supported our dream financially,” Kath says, allowing the service to pay an intern for ten hours per week.

The internship is designed to operate for one year terms, Kath says, with each intern then able to integrate their skills into their ministry, wherever that might be.  The first intern is Rev Cath Growcott, the Priest in Charge in the Parish of Porirua, and she began at the beginning of this year.  “This is a great link between the hospital and the parish,” Cath says, “it will give me more experience dealing with mental illness, and it will develop my knowledge and awareness.”

Cath has begun her internship working in the youth section, serving those with mental illnesses, and those who are in the forensic system – judged not guilty of crimes by reason of insanity.  She will also spend time in the psycho-geriatric section and with people who live with intellectual disabilities.  “This is a forgotten ministry,” Kath says.  “It’s out there, it’s scary, it takes a certain type of person.”  Being called to forensic and mental health herself, Kath doesn’t mind that this initiative has had a small beginning.  “Jesus had small beginnings,” she reminds us!

Cath was welcomed to her new position in a pōwhiri on the 17th of May.