“Mental Health in Australia Today” is the subtitle of this year’s Social Justice Statement (2020-21) from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), “To Live Life To The Full.” This document outlines how the church in Australia views the challenge of mental ill-heath today, and encourages us all to “make mental heath a real priority, so that all people may know the fullness of life which Jesus offers (John 10:10)” in the words of Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the ACBC.
This statement is an invitation for parishes and schools, families and community groups to become more actively involved in assisting those living with mental health challenges. It is also an acknowledgement from the hierarchy of the church that “as leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia, (we) are painfully aware of the failings of so many Church people and entities to protect and care for children and vulnerable adults in institutions… All of us who inherit these situations share in the responsibility to address them.” (Social Justice Statement p 17)
The Justice and Peace Office is keen to offer assistance to social justice groups, parishes and schools interested in finding out how to become more actively engaged in addressing mental health issues in their communities. Dr Robbie Lloyd in the JPO team is a specialist in this field and has firsthand family experience of the issues that many people face. Once you have scanned some of the background evidence here and the statement, you may feel ready to begin addressing the issue in your local area together with those needing assistance.
Some areas where you might like to begin exploring opportunities for action include:
- Campaigns to address and reduce stigma, which can occur unconsciously in the way groups of all ages operate, whether among children, adults at work or even in aged community settings
- Addressing the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) in your local area affecting vulnerable people – access to food, warm clothing, transport, housing, social support, physical health etc
- Engaging with local and state governments and agencies to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in the local community, and challenging them if there are gaps
- Seeking local church voluntary engagement with the mental health and alcohol & other drugs services in your areas, to assist those in recovery in reconnecting with society in a personal outreach program
- Actively lobby for and participate in developing services such as the Recovery College model, which operates in several parts of NSW and elsewhere in Australia, and acknowledges the lived experience of those with challenges working alongside clinicians and adult educators, as respected members of a healing community
For the copy of the Social Justice statement, including a podcast version, liturgy notes and the prayer card please visit the website of the Office for Social Justice.
For a brief introduction to mental health concerns in Australia today, please visit this section of our website.
For a brief overview on what the Church teaches on mental health click here.
The Justice and Peace Office has developed this Ten Ways to Improve Mental Health guide to help you implement the Social Justice Statement. For more assistance about how you can get involved please contact Robbie Lloyd at the Justice and Peace Office: firstname.lastname@example.org.