In the summer of 1980 I had a problem.
Having spent most of my teenage years caving in the northern Pennines, I found myself paralysed with claustrophobia whenever I went underground. It was a nightmare, and the sport I loved was proving impossible.
Some years before, aged 17, I had been trapped underground for several hours in a tiny, waterlogged passage. A month or so after that, I nearly lost a friend who was washed over a 40 foot drop by a sudden pulse of water. A year later, a good friend did die, in a huge fall down the main shaft of Gaping Gill in the Yorkshire Dales.
Today, we would say that I had a form of PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder - and there are therapies available to help. Back then, I had no idea what was happening and even less intention of talking about it with anyone.
I settled for carrying a miner's headlamp in my bag whenever I traveled on the London Underground, just in case the lights went out.
Fast forward through 37 years of working as a pastor in churches from Bournemouth on England's south coast, to Sunderland in the north-east. I've been trying to help people struggling with - much more serious versions - of the same problem; an inner terrorist that hijacks your rational mind and takes control. It could be anxiety, depression or a number of other afflictions.
In recent years, I've given much more time to understanding these problems, why they happen and how best to support the people who face them. Keeping it Together (KiT) is one result of that process. Here's what I'm aiming to do:
- Equip churches to support people - of all faiths or none - who suffer with mental health problems
- Encourage Christians to find hope and confidence in God - Christian worship, meditation and prayer are therapeutic
- Promote good quality Christian resources - from a variety of sources - that will help people through the dark times, and help their friends support and encourage them