Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > News Archive > 2007 news archive > Mental health helped by spirituality

Mental health helped by spirituality

BillBazeleyJulienBarehamNorwich mental health bosses have come up with an unusual new treatment for patients suffering from psychotic and delusional disorders - spirituality.

Doctors and nurses at Hellesdon Hospital have decided to “listen” to patients who are suffering from illnesses such as schizophrenia, and multiple personality disorders and let them talk about their state of mind rather than simply giving them drugs.

Patients who believe they are reincarnations of the likes of Jesus Christ are now being encouraged to discuss their revelations at length. The hospital has even developed a trust policy on spiritual care and is hosting spiritual refresher weekends for staff, spirituality and mysticism conferences and singing workshops.

Bill Bazely, senior chaplain at the hospital, who spearheaded the initiative, said: “Research has shown that service users of mental health services find it very hard because people do not want to listen.

“Their spiritual experiences are disregarded and so what we are trying to do is to encourage carers to listen to their experiences and take more account of their needs.”

He said one of the key aims of the strategy was to train staff to be more sensitive to the spiritual experiences of service users.

Mr Bazely added: “Generally speaking, the more we listen to someone the more it gives us clues on how we can work together. It may mean that we will rely less on medicine in the future.

“For me, spirituality is about discovering what inspires people and helping them express that.”

Julien Bareham thinks he is Father Time - the mythical figure who controls time and is often represented with a beard and egg-timer. He has been a patient on and off at Hellesdon for 24 years. The 53-year-old, who lives in Diss, was diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenic with bipolar effective disorder, delusions of grandeur and a multiple personality dysfunction in the 1980s after smoking marijuana in Africa.

But the former computer consultant is convinced he had a spiritual awakening. He said: “In my view I have been wrongly diagnosed and all I have been experiencing is a spiritual crisis.

“A mystical trance is not recognised by the psychiatric profession. I had a baptism of fire on the road to Diss but I was locked up and sectioned under the Mental Health Act for it. When people talk to God we say they are praying, but if God talks back they say you are a schizophrenic.”

He is now chairman of the trust's spirituality subgroup of service users' council and is trying to influence the spirituality and mental health strategy of the trust. He said:“In the past they did not encourage us to talk because they thought it would encourage the delusion, but that is wrong because if you have had a metaphysical experience you want to talk about it. Now we can talk about it and work out how we can build the experience into our lives.”

Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust opened a new 15-bed unit at Hellesdon Hospital earlier this year to look after people with severe mental health problems.

Julien featured on BBC 1's ONE Life documentary on May 1 2007.


Pictured above are Rev Bill Bazely and Julien Bareham.


Story and picture courtesy of


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