Mental health shouldn’t be a lone struggle

lionel parrotThis month, Crosslight welcomes Lionel Parrott, member of Yarra Yarra Presbytery Mental Health Network and part of the steering committee for a major new report.

Imagine, if you can, living your life with another presence within you. Sometimes, this presence may be so strong it takes control of you.

This presence, described as mental illness, can impact upon education, access to employment, social relationships, acceptance within the community, housing and accommodation, diet and all-round health.

Relief may be only temporary. The disturbing presence comes and goes, but there is no long-lasting cure.

You have to learn to manage or live with it, and to deal with the side effects of any prescribed medication.

The statistics around mental illness are eye-opening.

One in four Australians will suffer from an episode in their lifetime.

Yarra Yarra Presbytery recently conducted a research project called Creating Welcoming Communities prompted by concerns that the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has resulted in many people with mental illness slipping through the cracks.

The resulting report affirms a practical, powerful, and responsive form of ministry in this context, with recipients experiencing a sense of sanctuary, safety and hospitality, of being able to be themselves, be part of a community, share stories, feel a sense of hope and reconciliation, and explore personal spirituality.

I urge you to read the mental health feature on pages 22 and 23.

That people are falling between the cracks of mental health care programs was also a major theme of the UCA Funds Management post-budget breakfast that you can read about on page 7.

Just as some congregations are called to mental health ministry, this issue’s cover feature explores how individuals experience their calling to ministry. Every person’s calling is unique and deeply personal as Kevin Dobson, Viola Leung and Sean Winter explain on pages 14 and 15.

With Assembly fast approaching, Crosslight introduces you to our UCA President-Elect Deidre Palmer on page 10. Also take a moment (page 12) to meet Bradon French, synod’s new intergenerational ministry youth worker.

Many congregations would like to undertake more initiatives in the area of mental health ministry, but feel they need to be better equipped.

They should be encouraged because mental health chaplains are increasingly aware of the benefits of spiritual exploration and understanding in making a contribution to improved mental health.

On a practical level, providing shelter, food, activities such as drama, music, art and sculpture, and a gathering space can all help. It is at the grassroots level that the church can offer hope and a sense of community.

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