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Hat & Heels event in Diocese of Grahamstown

Talking about mental health in Diocese of Grahamstown

19 May 2023

The Covid 19 pandemic caused concern of a 'mental health crisis' especially among children. In the UK, 'Between March and June 2020, a period when schools were closed to most pupils, symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were found to have significantly increased in children and young people aged between 7.5 and 12 years old compared to immediately before the pandemic' (UK Government source)

But the isolation of Covid 19 didn't just affect the younger generation - 'Multiple studies revealed deteriorations in mental health and wellbeing between March and May 2020, followed by a period of improvement through July, August and September 2020 to a point where levels were comparable to before the pandemic'  (source) which coincides with the lockdowns put in place in the UK.

Covid 19 was suffered worldwide; the ramifications were also felt in the Diocese of Grahamstown, Province of Southern Africa. In 2022, it was noticed that there was a huge decline in church service attendance and apathy amongst the Mothers' Union Members, which was attributed to Covid 19 and the isolation of lockdowns and the loss of loved ones. The isolation of not being able to attend funerals, comfort grieving family or even have a friendly hug effected everyone in different ways.

Anastasia Welekazi Mangaliso, the Diocesan President, noted there was a despondency in members who were no longer eager or zealous to take part in projects, which they would have done previously.  ‘We are all wounded, hurting and heart-broken in many different ways,’ the Diocesan President wrote, ‘We first needed to create a space for us to be able to heal.’

The diocese organised a Hat & Heels event, a time to dress up and as Anastasia says ‘…to look beautiful and be in formal wear so that they feel comfortable in a relaxed environment and not bound in the church uniform. We thought of Mary Sumner as an elegant lady and we decided to emulate her in the midst of our traumas after the Covid 19 Pandemic.’

It was an event to bring people together, discuss and create a safe space. The day consisted of professional speakers to focus on topics such as dealing with grief, mental health and depression, and bullying. Participants of the meeting were able to ask questions and discuss; it became a safe space for Mothers’ Union members to ask and talk about very difficult and sensitive subjects. Not only Mothers’ Union members were present, other groups attended the day such as the Anglican Women’s Fellowship, Mary Magdalene and members from other denominations.

After the Hat & Heels event, there has been an increase in the number of members returning to church. The Diocesan President explains that ‘Parishes also started to bring mental health awareness to their members through inviting various speakers to talk.’  From 24th – 27th August 2023 there will be the biennial conference with the focus being ‘Parenting and Mental Health.’


On the NHS website they suggest 5 steps you can do that can help your mental health and wellbeing:

1. Connect with other people – be it a phone call with family or friends, meeting for lunch or volunteering.

2. Be physically active – fitness has long been said to help mental health as it can cause chemical changes in your brain, but only do activities that you enjoy so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.

3. Learn new skills - like trying new hobbies or cooking a new recipe.

4. Give to others – it can be as simple as saying thank you, or offering to help a friend with a DIY project.

5. Pay attention to the present moment – also known as ‘mindfulness’. Try not to focus on the uncertainty of the future.