Prayers of gratitude for the rain which has fallen across NSW over the past week.

While driving to meetings during the week, I heard a woman farmer speak about the first fall of rain at Broken Hill for almost one year, and her tears of grief and joy expressed the sentiment of many of the people who live on the land and provide for us.

It served as a reminder to me of what the Social Justice Council, along with CatholicCare are planning to do during Mental Health Month.

This year we have chosen to go to the Upper Hunter and hold a morning around the theme for Mental Health Month – Share the Journey. St James Primary School has opened the doors on Thursday 25th October, to welcome us and anyone who would like to come along. Our intention is to go to a place where some people are doing it tough, and to provide some information around mental health, along with support, so that the care of the community is apparent. It is about faith in action by connecting with others.

The following information can be found on websites about Mental Health Month:

Mental Health is a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (WHO, 2001)

Mental Health Month is celebrated each year in the month of October in NSW. This awareness month encourages all of us to think about our mental health and wellbeing, regardless of whether we may have a lived experience of mental illness or not. This month also gives us the opportunity to understand the importance of mental health in our everyday lives and encourages help-seeking behaviours when needed.

This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is Share the Journey. The main message is to encourage individuals and communities to connect with others and recognise how important this is for our mental health and wellbeing. Good social connections are important for our health and survival – they help us with our journey to better mental health and our ability to cope with life’s struggles. They not only improve our overall wellbeing; they also build our resilience. This in turn helps communities to be good places in which to live, and people thrive when the environment is positive and supportive.

Nearly half of all Australians (45%) will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will most likely know someone that does.

Share the Journey means – telling your friends and family when things are a bit tough – finding others who have been through something similar – connecting with your community – finding a health professional you trust – connecting on social media – giving your pet a cuddle – organisations working together for the best possible wellbeing of everyone – sharing your stories with others – creating a sense of security within families and communities – reaching out to someone who might need your help - decreasing the isolation people feel when things aren’t great.

Our weekend readings, particularly the one from Genesis 2, reminds us of God’s design for humans, to companion each other, to be helpmates and to seek out deep relationships. The message is important because isolation has a huge impact on the wellbeing of people whose mental health isn’t as great as they’d like it to be. We can all share the journey to make things a little easier, to make communities as supportive as possible; to make good mental health a bit more accessible for everyone.

Mental illness is a clinically diagnosable illness that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. Mental illnesses are diverse, and each of these can occur with a varying degree of severity. It is important for us to realise it is an illness, and like any other illness, requires us to be aware, seek assistance and take time to heal with proper care and attention. Most important is for those with whom we share relationships to be patient, show kindness, concern, understanding and forgiveness. Those affected form part of our close circles of family, friends and colleagues, and interact with us in our community every day, with one in five Australians affected at any one time.

Our call and response as Christians is demonstrated to us by Jesus at the end of the Gospel reading for Sunday (Mark 10:13-16) 

People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Jesus tried with words and with action to show his followers what it meant to bring about the Kingdom of God. Children were held in little regard in Jesus’ time, and yet he takes time with them, touching them and blessing them. We are called to take notice, and to make a difference to the lives of those who are ‘suffering’.

I found the following prayer, which I think might assist to remind us what we believe and are called to: 

I believe in God, who is love and who has given the earth to all people. 
I believe in Jesus Christ, who came to heal us, and to free us from all oppression. 
I believe in the Spirit of God, who works in and through all who seek truth. 
I believe in the community of faith, which is called to be at the service of all people. 
I believe in God's promise to finally destroy the power of sin in us all, and to establish the reign of justice and peace for all creation. 
I believe in human rights, in the solidarity of all people, in the power of non-violence. 
I believe in the beauty of simplicity, in love with open hands, in peace on earth. 
I dare to believe, always and in spite of everything, in God's power to transform and transfigure, fulfilling the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where justice and peace will flourish.

Adapted from All God's People World Council of Churches

For those in the Upper Hunter, please consider coming along with a friend to our event on Thursday 25th October at 9am, at St James Primary School at Muswellbrook.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.