Michael, a POhWER advocate was approached by Ffion during an IMHA drop-in session at an eating disorder unit. Ffion was detained under a section of the Mental Health Act (MHA) and had a low BMI due to Anorexia.

Ffion explained that she was currently unable to leave the unit unsupervised. However, as a practicing Roman Catholic, the unit had agreed to allow her to attend Sunday Mass but only when they could provide an accompanying member of staff to supervise. Ffion didn’t think that she needed this supervision and felt it was an unnecessary intrusion on her privacy and spiritual wellbeing. Ffion was also frustrated that there were often occasions when there were no staff available to accompany her, meaning that she was rarely able to attend. When church visits did happen, staff sat beside her so she had no privacy in worship or prayer. Ffion is also upset that she hasn’t been able to attend confession during her stay at the unit.

Ffion asked for advocacy support to contact the professionals at the unit and request for unescorted leave to attend Sunday Mass. Michael contacted Ffion’s Consultant Psychiatrist and relayed her views, concerns and wishes. He also reminded him of her human right to freedom of religious belief and worship.

The Consultant Psychiatrist agreed to Ffion’s request and put in place some measures to keep Ffion safe. For example a taxis would be booked in advance by staff at the unit so that Ffion would be taken directly to the church and be brought directly back to the unit after mass had finished (time for confession would also be taken into account).

When Michael next visited Ffion she had completed one unsupervised visit to Sunday Mass without incident. Ffion was delighted that she could now attend Mass alone and be able to worship and pray in private. She was thankful that she had also been able to attend confession for the first time in months. Ffion said she felt like part of her congregation once again and connected to her faith. Ffion felt this would help her to make progress at the unit to improve her mental health and wellbeing.