Professor Peter Gilbert
Welcome to our new website, we hope you enjoy it and find it helpful. We are a group of people who are passionate about mental
health and spirituality.
People’s lives can be devastated by poor mental health. They may be in touch with mental health services and they may not. In either case our experiences show us that acknowledging one’s spiritual self can be a force for change/good, aiding recovery from debilitating and milder distress.
But spirituality and mental health are both very complex. This website goes some way to illuminating some of these complexities
"Spirituality has been part of human activity and experience for more than 70,000 years. The
evidence for this is to be found in the earliest cave drawings many of which can be found in central and southern France. It is only in the last 20 years particularly that there has been an
extraordinary resurgence of interest, research and education in spirituality. In the early nineties the number of papers written about nursing and spirituality was in single figures. In
2009/10 the number had risen to over a hundred – truly phenomenal.
In 2001 on11th of September the twin towers in New York were destroyed and terrorism reached into the heart and soul of America in a way that could never have been envisaged. One question raised in this country by this terrible event was the effect this would have upon Muslims living in the U.K. and upon their mental health. The ever present dangers of terrorist attacks were further reinforced six years later on 7th July in London.
Two people who led nationally on the issue of Spirituality, Faith and Mental Health were Antony Sheehan and Peter Gilbert. At the time Antony led and Peter worked for the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE), and, because of their concern and foresight, spirituality became one of the many strands in mental health which the NIMHE was promoting. HM Government had given NIMHE the responsibility of modernising mental health services in England and Wales and, while its main focus was at a national level each strand had a lead director. Peter was the lead for Social Care and Spirituality. Later the central secretariat was reduced so that the work could be carried out in 9 Regional Centres. At the time I chaired the East Midlands Region and Caroline Steele who had been seconded from the Department was its director.
Since 9/11 and the establishment of NIMHE, Peter has become an iconic figure in the U.K. in the world of spirituality and mental health. He has travelled the length and breadth of the country from his home in Worcester and also visited the Channel Isles, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to promote the importance of spirituality in the field of mental health. His writings have had an influence internationally. After 5 years HM Government decided to subsume the work of NIMHE and its regions into newly established local authority regions which was completed in early 2008.
Peter joined Martin Aaron in the early days of the “Spirituality Forum” meetings held in London at the Health Education Authority in the 1990’s. He was one of the founder members of The National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum and is one of its eighteen trustees. Martin recalls his enthusiasm in promoting spirituality as an essential element of a person’s life whether religious or not. Through his work in the field of mental health, Peter has assisted the Forum in increasing its national coverage, membership and attendees at the many half-day meetings, seminars and conferences. His dedication to the importance of spirituality, particularly in mental health, but in healthcare generally, has inspired many to develop further knowledge and research in the subject.
The National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum was asked to continue the work of promoting spirituality in mental health units and among faith communities. The Forum was given a three year grant from the Department of Health in April 2009 to employ a Project Lead and two Field Officers for one day a week each. Peter was appointed as the Project Lead and, when the grant finished, Peter continued the work on a voluntary basis up until the present day.
Peter is married to Sue and they have three children and one grandson who is very special. After school at the age of eighteen Peter joined the army at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and, while there, went up to Balliol College, Oxford to read Modern History. After University, he became a trainee social worker and ended his professional social work career as Director of Social Services for Worcestershire. From 2001 he has been deeply involved in the Spirituality programme. He is a member of a running club and one way he expresses his own spirituality is through running, not least because of the natural community which develops of like-minded people. Another avenue he uses to articulate his spirituality is through his own Catholic faith community, where he is not only highly regarded but has also been influential in raising the importance of mental health in today’s society, contributing to Ben Bano’s guidance for parish communities. Peter’s own interests in spirituality have moved far beyond the world of mental health and now include areas such as spirituality and leadership. He has written extensively about spirituality and, as well as editing books and writing papers, has managed to write a number of books himself. A definitive list is attached.
Whenever Peter is presenting spirituality whether for a conference of 200 people or a seminar for 20 professionals, he always makes the point that he has suffered with mental health problems himself and so understands the user perspective from within. It is extremely sad that he now has to contend with the pernicious and destructive illness known as motor neurone disease. This is sapping his strength and his ability to continue with his very heavy work load (see his latest report to the Forum Trustees). Everyone in the field of spirituality owes Peter a great debt of gratitude for his unerring courage in driving forward a not always popular area of human concern, his strong work ethic, his readiness to be available to a whole range of people, his amazing ability to network, and his stoicism in the face of adversity. He is unique."
Archdeacon Arthur Hawes
For more information about Professor Gilbert , please follow these links:
The Forum invites mental health service users, carers, workers, faith community leaders and representatives to learn from each other, develop working relationships and share good practice in spirituality and mental health care. We seek to do so in the spirit of gentle curiosity and with courage and compassion.
With thanks to our sister Forum, 'Spirituality in Mental Health North East' (www.simhne.co.uk)
An evening of conversation with Rowan Williams, 27th January 2014 at Magdalene College, Cambridge. For the flyer and to book your place, please see below.
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