PTSD Post traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is common.  A recent survey in the Lancet  of 2,000 eighteen year olds in England and Wales showed that one in every 13  had evidence of PTSD.

Only a third or so of those who experience major trauma developed  PTSD. Of those who developed PTSD in this survey about a half had also had depression, a quarter had evidence of alcohol dependence and a fifth had harmed themselves.


The level of PTSD is high in Northern Ireland where I live.  Many who have lived through ‘The Troubles’ here have had horrific experiences and in clinic I have encountered fire fighters, policemen and prison officers who have been through harrowing times.  In PTSD people will often have flashbacks and nightmares of the experiences they went through. They will often be ‘on edge’ and want to avoid any reminder of the experience. They will usually try to bury the experience deep inside themselves and may find certain aspects of the experience difficult to remember. They may actively avoid ever going near where the incident happened.

Last Friday evening, I was continuing some of the talks I have recently been giving at Clonard Monastery.  (Previous talks on Anxiety, Suicide, Addictions and Depression were broadcast  live and can be accessed on the CLONARD MONASTERY FACEBOOK PAGE. Further talks on Psychosis and Bereavement will be on Fridays 22nd and 29th March at 7-30pm )

This last Friday I was talking on PTSD. In small groups people were able to talk about their experiences. We pointed out where more specific help was available. Trauma based cognitive behaviour therapy and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming) are both valid and well attested forms of therapy and some of my colleagues have excellent results in this area.

We also encouraged the audience to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ can bring healing to the traumas they had suffered. We had a good time of prayer for individuals  who had been through traumatic experiences.  We have been delighted to be involved with Clonard Monastery with these talks, particularly since Clonard were instrumental in helping to bring reconciliation during ‘The Troubles’.

When healing occurs, through various means, people are able to look back on their painful experiences without the distress and fear that they had become accustomed to with PTSD.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have an excellent leaflet on PTSD


I feel honoured to be considered a parishioner of Clonard Monastery as described in the Belfast Telegraph article on Saturday 31st March 2018


Not that strictly speaking, Clonard Monastery has parishioners anyway!  However, I do feel honoured and  privileged to be asked to carry the cross for this cross-community procession along the Falls Road and Shankill Road in Belfast. It was an opportunity to reflect on the power of the cross to bring us together, as well as a reminder of the  wonderful work done by Father Gerry Reynolds (now sadly deceased) and Rev. Ken Newell and others in helping to bring cross-cultural understanding and friendship during THE TROUBLES.

I have always been made very welcome at Clonard Monastery. I have had the opportunity to lead prayers for them and they have kindly hosted my talks on MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES IN THE COMMUNITY.

As a non-Catholic what is it that I find so attractive about the Clonard  Monastery community?

Firstly, I feel so honoured and welcomed by Clonard.

Secondly, I find a genuine humility in their strong desire to welcome those from other Christian traditions and a willingness to learn from them.

Thirdly, the PILGRIMS OF CHRISTIAN UNITY. This wonderful group of people go most Sundays as a group  to sit in Protestant churches, just to be there as a witness to their strong desire to build bridges between different church traditions. What an example!

So, It was a privilege to be part of the


30th March 2017 – Picture by Matt Mackey /
Parishioner from Clonard Monastery in West Belfast walk along Clonard Street on Good Friday on the Falls/Shankill Walk.

They have also  invited lots of people to attend my  talks on mental health and there has always been a good crowd. The talks have been in two parts with discussion on a common mental health theme followed, after a tea break, by a discourse on how the Christian Faith can help. Talks on such subjects as Depression, Anxiety and Addictions have been warmly received and it has always been a pleasure to show how Psychiatry and The Christian Faith can be helpful in our understanding of these conditions. This approach can also be found in my book,


Of course, exercise is very helpful for mental health, so there are several benefits from the CLONARD MONASTERY GOOD FRIDAY PROCESSION






Conference at QUB: Theology, Spirituality and Mental Health



Event Information


The core purpose

This one-day interdisciplinary conference on spirituality, theology and mental health with two of the worldwide leaders (Prof. Harold Koenig and Prof. Chris Cook) in the field will provide delegates with an opportunity to consider how innovations can emerge through a visionary, interdisciplinary focus.

Keynote Speaker Profiles

Prof. Harold Koenig

In brief, Prof. Koenig is Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Center, and has published extensively in the fields of mental health, geriatrics, and religion, with over 500 scientific peer-reviewed publications and book chapters and nearly 50 books in print or preparation. Prof. Koenig has given testimony before the U.S. Senate (1998) and U.S. House of Representatives (2008) concerning the benefits of religion and spirituality on public health. His latest books are a series on religion and mental health (Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism).

Prof. Chris Cook

In brief, Prof. Cook is Director of the Project for Spirituality, Theology & Health in Durham. This project was collaborative between the Department of Theology & Religion and the School of Medicine, Pharmacy & Health (until the recent move of SMPH to Newcastle. Prof. Cook is also an honorary consultant psychiatrist with Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, President of the British Association for the Study of Spirituality and an Executive Editor of the Journal for the Study of Spirituality and was Chair of the Executive Committee of the Special Interest Group in Spirituality & Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2009-2013. Similarly, like Prof. Koenig; Prof. Cook has published extensively in peer-reviewed publications, books and book chapters.


In recent decades, worldwide academic and public consciousness regarding the relevance of spirituality and religion to health issues has increased. The World Psychiatric Association and The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Special Interest Group on Spirituality affirmed a need for more research on both religion and spirituality in mental health (Cook, 2016). This area is still in early stages and is primarily focused on two areas: first, the training of mental health care professionals to increase their sensitivity to spiritual needs and religious orientation. Second, co-opting faith-based organisations and their clergy to support mental health programmes. However, in NI there is notable reluctance to engage with religion and spirituality in mental health, consequently, such engagement is significantly under-examined within research and policy despite greater recognition and increasing empirical evidence supporting its use (Carlisle, 2016).

Key objectives

• Provide insightful training: for those involved in pastoral counselling in churches (including clergy, pastoral carers, youth workers and counsellors), those involved in specialist areas of mental health (including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers) and those in academia (including lecturers, researchers and students).

• Inspire delegates to form a Spirituality and Mental Health Research Forum in Northern Ireland.

• Encourage cross-pollination and creative endeavours in Psychiatry, Psychology, Social Science, Nursing and Theology.

• Open conversations on spiritual and religious psychopathology in mental health and discuss opposing and supporting perspectives.

• Cultivate opportunities for ecumenical, multifaceted, rich interdisciplinary research and training.

• Learn from the advances in the area of spirituality and mental health in Durham University and Duke University.

• Provide an opportunity for delegates to think more innovatively about interdisciplinary approaches.

Day Plan

9.15am – Registration

9.45am -Welcome and introduction of speakers — Prof. Drew Gibson

10.00am -Religion, spirituality and mental health: The role of faith communities — Prof. Harold Koenig

11.00am – Coffee Break
 (Union Theological College)

11.20am -Narrative in psychiatry, theology and spirituality — Prof. Chris Cook

12.15pm -Spirituality and Health: From the Patient’s Viewpoint — Mrs Charmin Koenig

12.45pm -Thanks and instructions for lunch — Prof. Drew Gibson

12.45-2.00pm – Lunch

2.00pm – Welcome back, instructions for workshops and reminders to pick up CPD certificates –
Ms Carolyn Blair

2.10pm -Workshop (Session 1) – Choose from one of the following:

Religious psychopathology: The prevalence of religious content of delusions and voice hearing-
Prof. Chris Cook
Spirituality in patient care: Applications in clinical practice- – Prof. Harold Koenig
The Spiritual Challenges of Wife, Mother and Church Member — Mrs Charmin Koenig
Spirituality and Mental Health in Pastoral Care — Prof. Drew Gibson

3.00pm – Coffee break (Union Theological College)

3.20pm Workshop (Session 2) – Choose from one of the following:

Transcendence, Immanence, and Mental Health — Prof. Chris Cook
What Academic Researchers Need to Know: The Spouse’s Perspective — Mrs Charmin Koenig
Obtaining funding for studies on religion, spirituality and mental health and publishing a research paper —

Prof. Harold Koenig

4.00pm Closing thanks — Prof Drew Gibson

Target audience

It will be open to all but will be most useful for those involved in specialist areas of mental health (including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers) and those in academia (including lecturers, researchers and students) and involved in pastoral counselling in churches (including clergy, pastoral carers, youth workers and counsellors).


Name: Carolyn Blair



Grow exists ‘To enable people with mental health conditions or illness to take their responsible and caring place in society’.

I am delighted to have been invited to their meeting tomorrow evening (Tuesday 27th Feb 2018) hosted by Clonard Monastery, Belfast BT13 2 RL at 7-30 pm in the conference room. The program will commence with an introductory talk on GROW-what it is how it works and who it is for. Then I will give a talk on Anxiety and Stress Management followed by questions. After a tea break I will give a further short talk on Spiritual issues relating to anxiety.

Snowdrops growing on our front lawn.

I have enjoyed speaking at GROW events before in Dundalk and Letterkenny and am looking forward to this event. They have many stories of those who have been helped through their weekly support and twelve step programs and they seek to provide a caring and sharing community.

I hope you will be able to support this initiative of GROW IN NORTHERN IRELAND



On Friday evening 23rd February I will be giving talks in King’s Church Catford.

Themes will be-

What is Depression and What treatments are available?
-Finding God in Depression

Many people struggle with depression and often do not understand what they are going through. What causes it and how can it be treated?

Are there spiritual aspects to Depression? How can God help us in stormy times?
All are welcome 7pm. There will be a tea break in the middle. Sessions are free

So welcome to Mental Health talks at King’s Church Catford



Mental Health is a big problem for many people. Around one in four people will need treatment for a mental health issue at some stage in their lives. Those struggling with depression, anxiety or addictions often wish they could obtain clear and relevant information and ask questions about what deeply bothers them. Also, carers, professionals and community leaders often wish they understood these problems better, so they can offer practical advice and help to those who may be suffering.

Dr. Stephen Critchlow, a retired psychiatrist, and author of the book, Mindful of the Light-practical help and spiritual hope for Mental Health is coming to Manchester to lead a series of three talks on mental health issues.


These talks will be in THE LIFE CENTRE 235 Washway Road, Sale M33 4BP on Friday 16th Feb (7-30-9-30pm) and Saturday 17th Feb (9-30-1-00pm).

Topics will be on Friday, Anxiety and Stress Management, and on Saturday, Understanding Addictions, and What is Depression and what treatments are available?

Each of the mental health talks in Sale is in two parts. First, there is a presentation of the subject with questions. Then following a short break there is an optional spiritual reflection on the topic concerned. Entrance is free but a small donation is appreciated. All are welcome.

These talks have been held in many towns and cities in the UK and Ireland, and have been much appreciated by the many who have attended previously. Registration is encouraged in advance on Eventbrite for these mental health talks in Sale.