W Bro Rod Glyn-Thomas LGR attended this important and informative meeting

On the 5th May 2020 over 175 brethren from around the world joined a Zoom talk and Question and Answer session by W Bro James Innes SLGR, current Worshipful Master of Charterhouse Deo Dante Dedi Lodge No 2885.

The talk was jointly hosted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of London and ‘Freemasons without Borders’ – an initiative “dedicated to bringing the world of Freemasonry together in one place with the aim of enhancing our daily masonic advancement.”

Freemasons without Borders was founded by W Bro Ameet Watts (Aldwych Lodge No 3096) and W Bro Mahir Kilic (Enoch Lodge No 11) (right), both of whom are Mark Masons (amongst many other orders).

This Zoom meeting had many Metropolitan brethren present but also Masons from America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Bro Ameet, opened the meeting and introduced Bro James to the talk. Bro James then candidly shared his experience as being someone who has suffered with depression since his teenage years and explained how many people don’t appreciate how many people suffer from it, and that everyone knows someone with mental health problems although they probably do not realise it.

Bro James was very keen to explain how it is his personal experience that being open about mental health makes it very much easier to manage for the sufferer. He also explained how some people suffer from depression due to the particular chemical make-up of their brain, others suffer traumatic life events which causes mental health issues, and others suffer naturally occurring episodic phases of depression.

And it is something which is extremely easy to hide: “as Robin Williams said, ‘All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are’. Indeed, it is all too easy to hide it – and yet it is so counterproductive. It’s a cliché but a problem shared can really be a problem halved.”

Bro James went on to point to the guidance available from the NHS and how there are especially useful tips and resources for dealing with the current lockdown and its impact on daily life.

These include:

1. Find out about your employment and benefits rights

2. Plan practical things

3. Stay connected with others

4. Talk about your worries

5. Look after your body

6. Stay on top of difficult feelings

7. Do not stay glued to the news

8. Carry on doing things you enjoy

9. Take time to relax

10. Think about your new daily routine

11. Look after your sleep

12. Keep your mind active every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/

Bro James then said “mental health problems are often invisible to others but are very real to those suffering from them. My own mental health problems are something I deal with every day of my life and those who find me ‘so lively, so positive’ don’t realise that is my primary coping mechanism”.

After describing many facets of mental illness and providing advice on how to spot mental health issues in our friends and acquaintances. Bro James then wrapped up his talk by saying:

“And lastly, but certainly not least, I would like to thank all of you for taking the time today to be present – and to be a part of something here today. Something we have shared. Something which, as I said at the beginning, may be a very unusual masonic experience – and, yet something which I feel is simultaneously quintessentially masonic. Thank you.”

Bro James then went on to take questions about mental health for over an hour from the brethren present.

Afterwards, there was a huge amount of feedback to the talk, including:

“As someone who has suffered two serious bouts of clinical depression in my life, I was hugely grateful to James for his excellent talk. Sadly, mental health problems continue to be a taboo topic in many families and workplaces.

“James’s openness in discussing his own experience and his encouragement to us to ask questions and find out more about how we can help ourselves and our friends was extremely helpful and timely during this period of national and international stress during COVID-19 lockdown. Thank you, James, for bringing some light into a dark corner of our lives.”

VW Bro The Rev Dr Simon Thorn GChap

“James’s fascinating talk about his long and courageous battle with ‘The Black Dog’ helped to educate as well as dispel many myths on a subject about which most people know very little, unless they have personal experience.

“Depression is the single biggest killer of young men and James’s talk could not have come at a more significant moment than during lockdown, when countless people will also be facing up to The Black Dog. The more we know about this subject, the more we will be able to help those who struggle daily with this awful affliction. Thank you James. Your courage and your eloquence will help to save lives.”

VW Bro Andrew Manasseh PGSwdB AMetGM

“There could not be a more appropriate time to address mental health ‘fitness’ than now, right at the start of this current CV-19 pandemic.

“There’s lots of light-hearted posts on social media which attempt to distract people from the actual suffering that’s currently going on – but let’s face it, we are only 6 weeks into lock-down. There are weeks of similar still ahead of us and those who might not be too badly affected today and think they are ‘coping’, might not be in that same comfortable situation in the autumn.

“ We are being encouraged as Freemasons to stay in touch with the vulnerable members of our Lodges. We need to keep talking to as many members as possible, as that status of ‘vulnerable’ might soon extend to those whose mental state might deteriorate as the weeks and months of lock-down and masonic suspension go by. James’ advice and exhortations to seek support, should be augmented by everyone actively encouraging those closest to them to speak up about their feelings.”

RW Bro Thomas Quinn, Provincial Grand Master for London (Mark)

Mental Health Resources include:

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 41 July 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 41 here.