Moderator Sharon Hollis told a lunch for mental health carers at Clarence Uniting Church in Hobart on Wednesday that they were sending out an important message in an area that is still often shrouded in shame and silence.
“Mental health is one of the most stigmatised illnesses in our community,” Ms Hollis told the gathering of 30 people who had come to enjoy support and fellowship.
“I think hosting a day like this is great because it helps break down the stigma. It begins to say that, actually, this is a community where we can talk about this.
“It sends a signal into the community that we’re not afraid to talk about this and we won’t judge you. And that’s hugely significant.”
The lunch was primarily organised by the Connections, Craft and Conversation group at Clarence Uniting Hall, who seized upon the idea and prepared a more-than-ample spread of hot soups, sandwiches, cakes and slices.
Ms Hollis shared from her own experiences of mental health struggles, including being a carer for her husband Michael, who suffered chronic clinical depression and took his life almost three years ago.
“Anyone who is a carer in this room is a brave soul,” Ms Hollis said.
“Anyone is this room who got up this morning and got dressed and came here deserves a medal. Anyone in this room with a mental health issue that got up and got dressed this morning and came to lunch deserves two medals, that’s real-life lived courage.”
Fran, whose adult son lives with schizophrenia, came to the lunch after reading about the event in The Mercury newspaper that morning.
She said it was important as a carer “to know you’re not alone”.
“I thought well, it’s a bit uplifting. It’s not all doom and gloom sort of thing. The people would be nice and the people have been lovely here, really nice,” Fran said.
Ms Hollis also said that it was important for churches to create spaces for carers to talk openly and sometimes even to “dump on” others when they were finding it all a bit much.
“It’s good because it’s such a hard job, this caring role,” she said.
“I think when we speak about it and acknowledge it we actually stand in solidarity with each other.
“We need to keep talking about these issues; we need to keep caring for each other. It’s an issue that’s very close to my heart and an issue I am passionate about.
“When we are willing to host a lunch like this, talk to carers, talk about the issue, it’s such an act of solidarity with each other.”
Clarence Uniting Church minister Reverend Ann Perrin, who also shared some of her family’s struggle with mental health issues, said she would talk to church council about hosting more such carers’ events.
She thanked Ms Hollis for her “common-sense down-to-earth discussion of this subject”.
“I think there is taboo around it still and getting together like this and saying ‘no that’s not what we want any more’ I believe is an important part of mental health for carers and those who suffer from mental illnesses,” Ms Perrin said.
As part of Mental Health Week events Ms Hollis attended a Carer Hub lunch at Hampton Park Uniting Church run by UnitingCare’s Life Assist on Tuesday.
On Thursday she took part in a special service, run in partnership with mental health community support program hope springs, at Cross Generation Uniting Church in Heidelberg Heights.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.