New minister says ‘Aye, Me too’ to mental illness

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

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A former hospital doctor who retrained as a Church of Scotland minister has spoken of his fight against mental illness to fight the stigma attached to the illness.

The Rev David McNeish, 40, who has just completed his first year in an Orkney island parish, said: “It’s a hard place to weak. There’s difficulties with mental illness here, like in lots of other places.”

Standing against a backdrop of rugged coastal scenery in the latest Tomorrow’s Calling campaign video produced by the Kirk aimed at recruiting new people to the ministry, Mr McNeish said: “This is where some people come when they feel they can’t go on. When they feel they would be better off throwing themselves off those cliffs.

“I’ve had my own experiences with mental illness and I decided to talk about them because of the stigma attached to it. Just to be open about your own experience can be a helpful way for others to say ‘Aye, me too.”

Mr McNeish, who is married with three children and grew up in Cumbernauld and Milngavie near Glasgow, has been minister at Milestone Community Church in Dounby, which serves people in Birsay, Harray and Sandwick on the west mainland of Orkney, since January 2015.

While the new minister says his new role is greatly fulfilling and an “adventure” with no single day the same, he admits his greatest challenges have been getting used to the remote location and dealing with the weather which he describes as a ‘cantankerous member of the congregation.’

“It’s a much more dispersed community. It takes a lot longer to get from house to house. I’ve spent most of my first six months getting lost, and getting to know people by going to the wrong house,” said Mr McNeish who trained at Liberton Kirk in Edinburgh and has also worked as a campaigner of Citizens’ Advice Scotland.

A total of 31 people were accepted into the ministry for training in 2015 - the largest intake since 2007.

The Kirk launched ‘Tomorrow’s Calling’ last year to boost numbers because a large number of its 800 ministers will reach retirement age in the next 10 years.

In the last 8 months, the series of high quality promotional films about ministers and their work has been viewed over 200,000 times on social media.

The Tomorrow’s Calling campaign has a dedicated careers website http://bit.ly/1IsyeWC for potential applicants for the ministerial training programme. Those interested are invited to register for the next Vocations Conference in Dunfermline on 6 February.

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