Women’s Interfaith Workshop; “Exploring Faith and Mental Health” For International Women’s Day 2023,

Exploring Faith and Mental Health – WOMEN’S INTERFAITH WORKSHOP -  9 MARCH 2023

VHP Ilford Hindu Centre, 55 Albert Road, Ilford,  IG1 1HJ

Despite the cold weather and rain, an interfaith group of 35 women came together for an in-person workshop at VHP Hindu Centre to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 by considering the topic “Exploring Faith and Mental Health” on 9th March 2023.

This topic proved very relevant as we have survived the pandemic but are now living through difficult and economically challenging times. As women we are often known as the peacemakers, the thread that holds the family together, the multi-taskers, the ones who support and nourish. It is a big responsibility and we thought it would be interesting, as women, to have an open and honest exploratory discussion on our Faith and our Mental Health –

  1. What (if any) are the issues around faith and mental health from a woman’s perspective?
  2. How does having a spiritual belief and viewpoint help us cope mentally with life and all of its’ ups and downs?

The women gathered in a large circle and introduced themselves - it was so good to see both familiar faces and several new women who had joined the group for the first time.  Discussion groups of 3-4 women then discussed the above-mentioned questions.

Statements made as outcomes of these interesting discussions included:-

  • Prayer and religious practises give peace.
  • Belief that “Every problem has a solution.”
  • Belief that the situation will change.
  • Prayers for different situations are helpful and give comfort.
  • Faith is a very important part of life.
  • “Be in the now.”
  • It’s about the strength of God rather than the strength of my faith.
  • Women tend to be more spiritual and more in tune with their emotions.
  • Keep God happy.
  • Sometimes God says, “No.”
  • “God helps those who help themselves.”
  • Is it right to always be asking God?
  • God knows everything.
  • Some people hesitate to engage with people with mental health problems.
  • Love, care and commitment.
  • Love and compassion are fundamental.
  • There are things you can and cannot control, and it’s helpful to realise that.
  • There are boundaries in religion.
  • We are all on our journey.
  • It helps to allow yourself to be you and to grow.
  • Women are the positive centre of the family.
  • We can forget about ourselves; it’s important to stop and self-care.
  • “Where women are honoured divinity blossoms.” (“Where women are honoured, divinity blossoms, and where women are dishonoured, all action, no matter how noble, remains unfruitful.” What the Manusmriti, an ancient Sanskrit text dated to be from the 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE, said about women.) said about women.)
  • Karma, good and evil.
  • Faith is so important.
  • We need to agree to differ.
  • There is no greater being than a woman; man comes from woman.
  • The soul – there is so much emphasis on the body.
  • Almighty God, our Father, gives us hope strength and courage.
  • We need to love ourselves.
  • Women have the biggest responsibility in the family; they hold it all together.
  • “Hinduism and Christianity are male dominated, but it is getting better.”
  • We shouldn’t be made to feel guilty if we can’t do all the religious practises. It’s our relationship with God that counts.
  • The rate of deaths by suicide is 6 men to one woman. (Mitzi)
  • Men don’t admit to mental health issues.
  • Different ways of coping with bereavement. “I wish I had more faith.”
  • “If you have faith, are at one with God, you will have no mental health problems.” This very bold statement led to some discussion/argument re the causes of illness and mental illness.
  • The inner spirit guides us.
  • We become anxious and depressed when things don’t go our way.
  • The stresses of life make you ill.
  • A good thing is that women DO talk and follow up. They are more open and look out for people.
  • In the Bible many of the Old Testament prophets went through despair and found God in their despair.
  • We need to see religions as guidance not restrictions.
  • Acceptance of things as they are.
  • “Mental health has no religion, faith or no faith.”
  • “Cry and you cry alone.”
  • People are afraid of losing their friends if they open up about mental health issues.
  • Clarification re the meaning of mental health and mental illness.
  • Suggestion – mental health awareness group.
  • Men versus women response to mental illness is due to society rather than faith.
  • Transgenerational trauma – e.g Black, holocaust – there’s a whole spectrum.
  • Female holocaust survivors.
  • Women are not strong, they’re tolerant.
  • Difficulties test my faith; they do not shatter it
  • My faith in a strong God is what protects me mentally. I am more concerned about believing in Him than about other people’s expectations.

After the small group discussion, the women topped up on their refreshments and were asked to go around the room and write down briefly their thoughts or comments on the Faith and Mental Health on the question sheets.


  • Yes, Hope the superpower will see me there.
  • Yes, with the belief that with every wordship comes ease and other teachings from the faith.
  • In times of difficulties faith helps.
  • Yes, I believe that in the time of difficulties faith does lift my spirit. I pray to God for strength.
  • What is faith? This will differ from person to person. I believe it can help you to cope with life’s difficulties.
  • Think of God who never gives us more then I, we can tolerate. See every difficulty as a test paper. Remember Baba God.
  • Knowing I can pray for divine assistance is reassuring. It makes me feel I am not alone and gives me strength. It helps calm me in tries of trouble/worry/anxiety.
  • My spirit is flying through prayers, accepting that God will answer in the way it sees it. I can also interact with others(women)of faith to share difficulties.
  • Sometimes I believe that God gives me strength to deal with difficulties.
  • Any faith gives you a path to reach that space or spirit and come out better at the other end.
  • For me personally my faith definitely helps as I trust in God.
  • I remember how God has always brought His people through difficulties and believe the many promises in scripture.


  • Through reading prayers and writing and meditating on these brings peace calmness and the knowledge that we are never alone. God is always there for us.
  • To take some time out, sit and pray focus on good. Things in life I think God (supreme power) will inspire and encourage me.
  • My faith helps me with clarity patience, progress and deal with stress brings lots of happiness. Also, to love myself and others.
  • God, not my circumstances, is my stability. I remember that He is “The Rock of my Salvation.”
  • I am a soul. Everyone is a soul regardless of race, gender, culture and religious. The souls are immortal virtuous, full of love, compassion, and non-judgment.
  • My faith helps me cope with life and challenges.
  • It helps me to cope with all issues and gives hope.
  • By going to Church, studying the Bible+ Praying.
  • By letting go of all the pieces of the situation, remembering that God is sovereign. Through obedience, prayer, and meditation on His Word. By sharing with those people who will support and direct us, and correct us when necessary.


  • Belief gets shattered and physical/mental health suffers.
  • We question our faith, we ask why? Why me?
  • If the unexpected is good it will strengthen me, if bad the spirit is dampened for a while and I have to pick up my courage and deal with it.
  • I have no expectation just a reputation as model of what others expect me to believe in.
  • Each person is individual, and all can cope differently. Some days we are stronger than others. My faith Definitely helps me.
  • My faith has helped me in the past+ I trust it will I the future.
  • It can cause a hiccup in our faith sometimes (+mental health) while we come to term with the unexpected -Especially if it is due to health issues. But faith and trust in God and acceptance of whatever happens in part of God’s plan for you surrounding to His will brings a sense of peace (through prayer)
  • When the unexpected happens, my faith helps to accept that it is God’s plan. He knows more than me.
  • I know that God knows everything, so nothing is unexpected to Him. I believe He loves me, and knows what’s best, so I can trust Him with everything. I believe that He will bring me through every situation He allows me to experience.


  • I think the routine of going to synagogue and connecting with people and just switching off from work in a spiritual way is very refreshing for the soul.
  • Faith can be helpful, but also faith teaches you to be kind to yourself and those around you.
  • Faith anchored in love can be a positive feature in our lives, but a narrow outlook on life can bring unhappiness.
  • That depends on trust you have in life.
  • It is certainly helpful for me personally.
  • Having faith is helpful, I question many of the tests, I look beyond the parables to find meanings (positivity) answers to cope with whatever happens.
  • It depends-sometimes we are faced with decisions that are difficult and may clash with our faith beliefs or culture. This can make us uneasy if we have to do something, we are not totally happy with but prayer always helps.
  • I think faith is helpful not a burden.
  • Having faith helps to draw that line not to burden with bias conscience.
  • It can burden sometimes just believe in the moral values not situations.
  • Sometimes It can burden me with conscience because of what people thinks that I step out of line-they will burden-not accepting that I am only human and respect my strong faith. I can make mistakes.
  • I find it very helpful, and it lifts my burdens as I can put them in God’s safe hands.


  • My faith in a strong God is what protects me mentally. I am more concerned about believing in Him than about other people’s expectations.
  • Role of faith will come under review
  • It can go both ways.
  • Faith teaches you to have patience and hope for better times.to feel what you will be rewarded for your patience.
  • Having a strong faith does help me to overcome my problems. I am a cancer survivor. I was told by my surgeon that you are going to have a very long and strong treatment. I finished it with my family’s help and with my faith in God. God shows us ways to come out of all difficulties of life.
  • It can help us. Be blessed and thee shall never be disappointed.
  • Having a strong faith and belief and living it is very positive for mental health. If other people want to disrupt this pointing the finger, then I think they should look at themselves before they criticise others. (in the nicest way of course)
  • I believe my faith helps me with difficulties’ – every person is different and what causes other person does not affect others.
  • I believe so, because others expect us to behave in certain manners this may cause stress but can help us to stay on the straight and narrow.
  • Faith does not keep us from mental stress, but it does help us to deal with it
  • Yes those who are firm believers.
  1. if religious can feel protected
  2. believe in yourself, be positive and have faith for ourselves not to meet expectations of others. Do the best you can.

Comments made by some of the women in their evaluation concerning what they found most interesting:-

  • Sharing with my neighbour and big group discussion
  • Views from different faith
  • Meeting up face to face and being able to discuss each other’s opinion and chat to old friends
  • Different opinion
  • Various points of views in faith and mental health
  • Learning other people’s views
  • People’s different point of view
  • Turnout and Diversity
  • Hearing news from different people
  • It was fantastic and very informative
  • All faiths have similar views
  • It depends, it can help some people
  • Common experience regardless of which faith
  • Community togetherness
  • Chatting and discussion
  • Women coming out and sharing their views and faith
  • It is good to get insights from different perspectives
  • Having a strong faith does not mean it will perfect help.  it might well protect one it has to be ones will, it might give you a belief
  • My faith in God helps me cope with life and people’s expectations are second to Gods
  • Being together as a group of diverse faces reunites each other
  • What faith means to people of different faiths


This was a humbling and friendly workshop with women happy and confident to share their thoughts. They said it was an

  • Excellent workshop
  • Would have been helpful if the term like mental health and faith had been defined
  • Lovely meeting
  • Would like to attend more workshops
  • Social issues
  • Very good sessions
  • Lovely to be back together in this lovely venue
  • I found this event helpful and informative
  • Thank you Saira I really enjoyed of being here in a midst of so many honoured women
  • It is helpful and healthy for people of different faiths to meet
  • I think many people are able to share a problem
  • Good discussions over 30 participants

Discussion in small groups were particularly fruitful as all ensured they were in a mixed faith group.  We all enjoyed a range of refreshment and Saira thanked Vinaya for VHP for hosting and providing hot drinks.