It is estimated that 1 in 6 people nationwide suffer from poor mental health, and Freemasons are not excluded.

With around 200,000 Freemasons in England and Wales, together with their families it is likely that tens of thousands of people within the masonic community are going through the day feeling flat, low, anxious or simply unable to cope. Sadly, many people, both masonic and non-masonic, do not seek the help they need.

We provide access to a free, confidential counselling service for Freemasons and their families. Kevin Friery is a trained psychologist, counsellor and psychotherapist with over 16 years’ experience. He spoke to us about the service:

What is the counselling service?

“The counselling service is a free and confidential support service for Freemasons and their family members who are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress and other conditions affecting their mental wellbeing.

“Our team of counsellors and therapists are qualified, experienced and accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.”

What kind of issues are you currently supporting?

“Some of those we help have been diagnosed with conditions like anxiety or depression, but what you’re feeling doesn’t need a label – many people simply notice that their days are slightly gloomier than they used to be.

“If you feel ready to talk about something that happened earlier in your life, or if you are struggling to cope with a challenging period in your life right now such as the breakdown of a relationship, grown-up children leaving home or managing the responsibilities of becoming a carer – give us a call.

Many members of the masonic community have got in touch with us as they struggle to adjust to a change in routine after retirement.

“There is a lot of advice out there on how to cope financially after retirement, but how do you cope with suddenly being in the house with your partner all of the time? It’s something we may joke about but we speak to people who are genuinely heading for divorce, so we help them to read just to their new roles in the home.

“We also work in partnership with a debt management service – we can help you deal with anxiety related to debt and then transfer you to them for practical guidance.”

What can a caller expect of the process?

“To get started, all you have to do is ring the MCF Freephone enquiry line (0800 035 60 90) and ask to access the counselling service. The person on the other end of the phone won’t ask you what you want to discuss – they will simply confirm your masonic connection and then put you in touch with us.

“You can expect to be sitting in a room with a therapist within a week and a half of your initial call and within 15 miles of your home. If you would prefer, we can speak to you over the phone instead.

“Typically we provide six sessions which may not sound like a lot, but remember that we are focused on solutions. In your first session you will agree with your counsellor what you hope to achieve, and over the following sessions you will work towards that goal.

“The service we provide is different for each person but no matter what your situation, you won’t just be passively reflecting – you will be actively seeking solutions and exchanging ideas and thoughts with your therapist. The vast majority of people say that the therapy has helped them change dramatically.”

Are there any instances where your support isn’t appropriate? What will you do in those cases?

“Immediately after bereavement, no amount of therapy can lessen pain or sadness. We will of course listen and talk to you over the phone – more than once if necessary – but in the short-term we would direct you to other organisations such as Cruse, a bereavement charity that can help you with all of the things that need to be done after someone dies. Further down the line, if you were still struggling with your grief, we would then help you to deal with those feelings through therapy.

“Our service is also unsuitable for those with severe psychiatric conditions, simply because there is other specialist support provided through the NHS. We can, however, support the family members of those diagnosed with these conditions.”

What would you say to someone who is unsure about calling?

The most common thing that people say during their first phone call is ‘You probably think I’m silly’, but we see every call as important and no matter what you are calling to discuss, there will be absolutely no judgement from us. Remember – what you’re feeling doesn’t need a label.

“I feel that Masons in particular have a fantastic support system from their lodge – something many people in wider society lack – but sometimes they need to take a step beyond that to get the help they need. That’s where the counselling service comes in.

Our aim is to find solutions for the 1 in 6 members of the masonic community that are struggling through the day. We meet people who have struggled for many years with a problem and after a few sessions they realise they have the tools to change their life.

“We operate according to principles of dignity, confidentiality, empathy and compassion as well as a belief that people are resilient and, no matter how low you may feel, we can help.”

The counselling service is available for Freemasons and their family members. Children and grandchildren must be aged 17-25 and in full-time education.

The counselling service was easy to access and my counsellor was tremendous. You pulled me out of a dark place and reintroduced me back to my usual self.

Counselling service user

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