Social Justice In Schools and Parishes

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

As we approach the end of this 2020-21 year focusing on Mental Health, as guided by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Commission on Social Justice, it is a good time to reflect on how local groups have been going in this space.

Whether in parishes or schools, everyone will have been affected by mental health issues during COVID. And ultimately that is a very helpful thing, because all of us are due to have such experiences at some times in our lives.

The more salient question is how much have we used this COVID time, of increased empathy and social solidarity, to bed down some ongoing ways to stay supportive of improved mental health at the local level.

Has your school considered establishing a peer support system for mental wellbeing among your students? And going to the next stage, having students volunteer for community service in local mental health, disability and ageing services? Of course there are regulations that apply in such places, but just asking if help would be appreciated is a powerful first step to discovering what IS possible.

And in parishes, it helps for people to know what local mental health services DO (or quite likely DO NOT) exist in your area. Once you know what’s there, people can explore how they might be able to help those services be more community engaged, to help their participants to know they can belong in wider community groups.

If your community has not yet discussed this issue, a good way to start is to invite everyone to a gathering where the broad topic of mental health can be explored in general. The JPO can always help with advice if you feel you need it, but just starting with open hearts and minds is a great beginning.