Headrest Oxford

I am helping to launch a new mental health initiative at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford next week. In fact we have coordinated the launch with World Mental Health Day – Monday, 10th October (at 8pm). The project is called Headrest and it is designed to raise awareness around the whole area of mental health and wellbeing. It is Oxford-centric, coordinating the two deaneries of Oxford and Cowley. The premise for Headrest is simple: in our discipleship of Christ, how can we address mental health needs in this city, in our faith communities, and in ourselves? The basic tenet of this approach is that we are all on the mental health spectrum, some of us requiring clinical intervention at times, while others suffer sometimes without diagnosis.

The Headrest Project is attempting to draw upon the wealth of good practice already undertaken by faith communities in the city of Oxford
The Headrest Project is attempting to draw upon the wealth of good practice already undertaken by faith communities in the city of Oxford

Headrest is not clinically driven, but it is an initiative which is ambitious to seek the best practice in pastoral care and enable a more focused psychological approach to our Christian ‘outreach’ and ‘in-reach.’ There are various organisations in Oxford which offer recognised therapeutic care, education and refuge. However, these agencies are not always connected. Surely with a network of churches and chapels in Oxford, Christian leaders (both lay and ordained) might be able to model an integrated plan of care in the community? The parish system is designed for such an approach. A parish priests remit is for the cure of souls in his/her parish (which is shared with the bishop). Headrest is a project which sees mental health as part of the human condition needing careful attention. Our spiritual wellbeing and maturity in faith is dependent on addressing our own mental health and that of our community’s and being responsible for it.

The objectives of the Headrest Project are as follows:

  • Support long-term mental health needs both within existing church communities and outside  Headrest is not intentionally a front-line agency. It will support our church communities through teaching, resource gathering and modeling good pastoral care.
  • Provide a befriending service; outreach to the lost, lonely and vulnerable  This will be informed by the nature of welcome in our churches, how we follow through inclusivity with pastoral care and safeguarding.
  • Developing a basic form of mental health awareness for church-goers  The diocesan website has a helpful guide.  Alison Webster is the diocesan social responsibility advisor. Many of the care agencies will be very well resourced such as Mind, so no need to re-invent the wheel.
  • Promote World Mental Health Day   10th October or the closest Sunday to it.  An opportunity for preachments and avail congregations and PCC’s of prayer and liturgical resources.
  • Appoint appropriate volunteers within each church to become mental health ambassadors  An invitation for our faith communities to raise awareness of need and improve our pastoral care and good practice across the city. The Headrest initiative could be an agenda item for our deanery chapters and synods.
  • Churches to become mental health friendly communities –Headrest Churches  St Michael & All Angels in the Oxford deanery and St Mary & St John in the Cowley deanery could lead the way by becoming ‘Headrest’ churches, setting a culture for the mission of God – distinctive care for people who are in particular need.

I hope you will be able to join me at the cathedral at 8pm on Monday 10th October – World Mental Health Day.

Take a closer look at what is going on in your local church – St Michael & All Angel’s Summertown. For the latest news and readings as well as recorded sermons, just click here.


Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.