Tuesday, 4th May 2010Collaboration with Birmingham and Solihull MHFT

bsmhftA working collaboration with the Project for Spirituality, Theology & Health at Durham University has now been agreed and will include a research consultancy with Professor Chris Cook, Project Director. Staff in Birmingham and Durham are very much looking forward to working together. It is hoped that this arrangement will include collaborative research between Birmingham and Durham, as well as joint applications for external grant funding and future joint publications on spirituality and mental health.

Overview of the Spirituality Research Programme

Preliminary research carried out in the USA suggests that a spiritual intervention can be helpful in promoting recovery from mental illness. Koenig’s (2005) collection of research studies into religion and mental health demonstrate an interest in this field. However, this research has been done in an almost exclusively white, North American society, focusing on adherents to Christianity and Judaism.

A need has been identified to fill a gap in the evidence base regarding the role of religion and spirituality in recovery from mental illness for service users in the UK. National interest in this area has been demonstrated by the increasing membership numbers in Royal College of Psychiatrist’s Special Interest Group for Spirituality and the range of conceptual articles and publications that have begun to discuss the role of spirituality in mental health. Interest from both the NHS and charities such as The Mental Health Foundation increasingly advocating a holistic approach to care that recognises service user’s spirituality

A pilot research programme into the benefits of Spirituality in recovery from mental illness has run at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust since September 2008.

Research has included a comprehensive literature review and ongoing survey into definitions of Spirituality. Results have demonstrated that there is very little evidence-based research in Spirituality and Mental Health in the UK. Further, definitions of ‘spirituality’ are wide-ranging, from connoting a religious faith for some, to finding meaning and connection in music, arts and nature for others.

Additional projects have to date included:

  • The development of a Personal Recovery Scale (PRS) which includes spiritual and existential elements, has been designed and validated by the research team.
  • A pilot study provided quantitative data that indicates a positive relationship between spiritual well being and recovery from mental illness.
  • Surveys have been undertaken in local faith communities to determine attitudes to, and stigma surrounding, mental illness.
  • The effect of a spirituality discussion group for service-users was also examined
  • A trial involving the collaboration of Occupational Therapy and Spiritual Care activities in a forensic unit was successful.
  • Staff attitudes to Spirituality and its role in care were surveyed, and appropriate training and materials developed in response.
  • Service-user involvement has been an integral part of the research from the beginning.

With the completion of these initial scoping exercises and pilot studies, it has been demonstrated that there is a huge need for further robust research in this area. NIHR funding has been sought to develop a long-term research project and there is increasing national interest in the pilot research.

Currently underway is the development of an assessment scale to measure spiritual well-being that is appropriate to the religious and spiritual demographic of the UK. A secondary aim of this project is to build upon the quantitative data collected in the PRS pilot study, to further evidence the between religious/spiritual well0being and recovery from mental illness.