Caring for carers – Mental Health Week events

sharon hollisVicTas moderator Rev Sharon Hollis is inviting congregation members to join her for a series of community events during Mental Health Week (9-15 October).

Ms Hollis has personally experienced the challenges of caring for someone with a mental illness. In 2013, she lost her husband Michael to suicide following a battle with depression.

There is often great stigma attached to mental illness. This contributes to the loneliness many people with a mental illness experience. Family members are also affected as they may feel they are unable to disclose their loved one’s struggles to people around them.

“It can be lonely to be a carer. Carers often bear the burden of both caring for their family member while having to take over the running of a home,” Ms Hollis said.

“Navigating the mental health system alongside the stigma is mind numbing.”

On Tuesday 11 October, Ms Hollis will be attending a mental health lunch hosted by Hampton Park Uniting Church and UnitingCare lifeAssist. The lunch is part of UnitingCare lifeAssist’s Carer Hub peer support program, which provides a welcoming space for carers of people with a mental illness to share experiences and make friends in a relaxed environment.

Ms Hollis will also be the guest of honour at a Mental Health Week lunch at Clarence Uniting Church in Hobart on Wednesday 12 October and a Hope Springs mental health service on Thursday 13 October at Cross Generations Uniting Church in Heidelberg Heights.

The experience of carers is often overlooked in mental health treatment plans, but Ms Hollis believes it is an essential form of expertise. These Mental Health Week events are an opportunity for carers to share stories and knowledge in the hope that others will be better equipped to support their loved ones.

“As someone whose family has lived with mental illness, I will share a little of my story and offer some words of encouragement,” Ms Hollis said.

In her moderator’s reflection in the October Crosslight, Ms Hollis talks about breaking down the stigma attached to mental illness and discuss what faith communities can do to support those struggling with mental health issues.

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