A prayer and reflection for World Mental Health Day

04 October 2023


A Prayer for World Mental Health Day 2023

On World Mental Health Day, God grant
to those walking in darkness a light for their path.
To those riven with grief comfort.
To those damaged in relationships a healing love.
To those overwhelmed with busyness a quietened mind.
To those wracked with guilt an assurance of acceptance and peace.
To those anxious of the unknown a calmed spirit.
To those perplexed with a chaotic world a confidence in the future.
And to those thinking, ‘I’m not worth it’ - hope.



As we mark World Mental Health Day on 10 October, the Revd Stephen Normanton, writes about the charity he founded and is CEO of, PeerTalk, its Methodist roots and its on-going work encouraging people to talk together about mental health.

(Warning, this blog contains mentions of suicidal thoughts and self-harm, links to find urgent support can be found at the foot of the page.)

Supporting people with mental health conditions

The PeerTalk charity is an act of God! Now with nearly 200 volunteers and running 16 support groups PeerTalk supports nearly 500 people a year who live with depression, anxiety and similar psychological distress. The PeerTalk vision is to establish a national network of volunteer facilitated peer support groups that are recognised as a trusted brand of clinically credible and organisationally robust support. 

It all began in 2014 when my wife Philippa completed her six weeks of NHS therapy for depression and we asked, ‘now what’?  A search of the internet found a superb model of community based support in Ireland provided by the charity Aware. The Aware charity have hosted a national network of forty volunteer facilitated peer support groups since 1985. A visit to meet Aware’s staff led to them offering their support for us to start something similar.

Hellifield Methodist Church in North Yorkshire agreed to start the PeerTalk project and supported by generous individuals, along with District and Connexional Grants the project became an independent registered charity in 2016. PeerTalk’s Methodist heritage remains reflected in many of its trustees and volunteers working alongside people of other Christian traditions, Faiths and those of none.

The Methodist Church established a strong foundation that enabled the charity to flourish. An act of God? - Absolutely! I am constantly overwhelmed with the way we have been blessed with the right people at the right time, the right resources just when we need them and the way that what seems impossible being achieved against expectation. I am also convinced that all the prayerful support we receive keeps us going.

The weekly PeerTalk support groups are attended by anybody who wants to come. Some people are signposted to us by clinicians and others see our publicity material. We have a presence on the Hub of Hope app, enjoy significant social media output and in the North East we have our posters on every station on The Tyne and Wear’s Metro rail network.

PeerTalk volunteers do not offer advice, counsel, their own opinion or try to ‘fix’ people. It is those who attend who support each other through identifying with each other’s struggles, sharing coping skills and techniques and offering encouragement. This peer support is humbling to witness and our volunteers often comment on how uplifting it is to facilitate the meetings. 

Sometimes the peer support that starts in a meeting extends beyond the meeting. It was recently reported that during a meeting an attendee was experiencing very low mood and expressing suicidal thinking. Another attendee offered their phone number stating if he was at risk of harming himself he should call him. The following week the attendee said he had phoned him at a time of crisis and that he had driven round immediately to be with him.

This response might have saved his life and possibly was quicker and more helpful than calling the NHS mental health crisis team.  An act of God? Absolutely! We might not be a charity that ‘names the name’ but here, by grace, one person sits alongside another and it makes a difference. This is but one account of many that we hear week in and week out.

We have been pleased that Sheffield Hallam University have twice undertaken independent evaluations of our work. These reports have been very positive and have highlighted the benefit that attendees gain through our support groups. The report's conclusion read:

'This study found clear benefits for participants attending a PeerTalk support group. Its relaxed environment allowed for candid and free communication to take place between equals. Meaningful friendships were formed as a result of similar shared experiences giving the participants the confidence to speak out, recognise their own recovery styles and assist others on their journey in a non-judgemental manner.'

The Methodist Church has made all this happen. On World Mental Health Day please remember all those living with mental health conditions and PeerTalk in your thoughts and prayers…

If you would like to find out more about PeerTalk, donate or volunteer, see peertalk.org.uk.

If you need immediate support regarding mental health, you can find details here or call the Samaritans free, any time, from any phone, on 116 123.