mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
Welcome from the Editor
I had the privilege this past month to attend the Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) Conference in Sydney. As part of our conversations we spoke about the challenges that our respective denominations are currently facing. Recurring themes that were prevalent in discussions throughout the conference included ministering in the age of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, responding to the digitisation of church life and how to minister to an increasing number of people with mental health issues. The latter is a topic that I am personally familiar with, having a number of people in my personal and work life who face a day-today tussle with mental health issues of varying degrees. As I reflect on this statement, I am sure that you as a reader will also know many people in your world who struggle with the ‘black dog’. A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics study suggests that almost one in five Australians surveyed had experienced symptoms of a mental disorder during the 12 month period prior to the survey. These numbers are staggering and would suggest that for every five people in the communities that we occupy, one will struggle this year with a mental health disorder. More alarmingly Western Australian studies suggest that mental health issues and their impact on people is even higher in our state. In 2012, 366 people took their own lives in communities across Western Australia. These deaths mean we are forever robbed of the unique qualities and contribution of hundreds of West Australians and families are forever bereaved. While for each adult death by suicide there are around 30 attempted suicides. In this special edition of The Advocate, which coincides with Mental Health Week 2016 (8 to 15 October), we hope to bring focus to some of the challenges that have faced our writers in this area and aim to equip you as the reader with
tools and resources that enable you to help people in your community. I am grateful to the many guest writers who have contributed stories to this special edition. For some, this is the first time they have placed pen to paper and I am sure that as you read these pieces, you too like me will be thankful to the Lord for having brought them through these dark times.
The Advocate Editor Matt Chapman.
... for every five people in the communities that we occupy, one will struggle this year with a mental health disorder.
If through any of these stories you find yourself identifying with what has been written, please do know that there is help available. Throughout the paper you will find contact details for many leading agencies who are able to offer assistance. I pray that by making this important topic more spoken about, that the stigma carried by those who suffer will be alleviated, and that more people in our communities find the help that they need.
Maintaining your independence at home has never been easier. Our experienced team can help you identify your options for a happy and healthy life. Whatever you need to stay at home and connected to your community, we’ll support you every step of the way. Services will be tailored to your needs and can include:
Prevalence of mental illness
45% 20% 2-3%
of Australian adults (aged 16-85) (7.3 million people) experienced a mental disorder sometime in their lifetime. (The Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2007) (Estimated) of Australians (3.2 million people) had experienced a common mental disorder in the previous 12 months. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008) of Australians (600,000 people) have severe disorders including psychotic disorders, and severe and disabling forms of depression and anxiety. (Department of Health, Australia, 2013).
Help around the house Personal and nursing care Shopping, outings and appointments Support to stay active in your community and pursue your interests. To find out how Baptistcare’s At Home Services can help you, please call us or visit our website.
1300 660 640 baptistcare.com.au
Baptistcare is one of WA’s largest not-for-profit aged care and community services providers, supporting communities in metro and regional areas for more than 40 years.
mental health edition
Comfort outside our comfort zone I grew up believing that in order to really follow Jesus you need to be uncomfortable. In fact comfort was often seen as the antithesis of faith in Christ.
Ben Good Ben Good and his family work with Global Interaction in Mozambique and are currently on home assignment in Perth.
There is some truth in that, so much so that I recently preached about how when God calls us to mission – to follow him, it is often a call to step out of our comfort zone. For example, take Jesus’s disciple Peter hopping out of the boat in Matthew 14 or entering Cornelius’ house in Acts 10. Being ambassadors of Christ can be stretching and challenging. It means handing the reigns over to the Holy Spirit. It can be an uncomfortable calling. In
Mozambique we can certainly attest to this. A Bible passage which has resonated with our team, particularly through our immigration woes is ‘We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure …’[2 Corinthians 1:8-11] As I reflected on this passage recently, I did something that my lecturers at Vose Seminary would be proud of, I began reading this passage in the context of the wider chapter and the book, and I stumbled across something startling.
In Chapter 1 Paul writes, ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’ [2 Corinthians 1:3-4] I grew up believing that a lack of comfort was a sign of true devotion to Jesus, and in fact the opposite was true. A life in Jesus can be full of uncomfortable circumstances,
hardships and suffering but despite this, rather in and through this, we find comfort. We are comforted, not by our circumstances or our things but rather in and through the crucified, risen Messiah. Following Jesus might take us out of our comfort zone but there is a comfort there beyond what we can imagine. And as we receive this comfort we become agents of it for others. The question is will we step out of our comfort zone to share it?
Of all the things I have lost ... It was Mark Twain who wittily wrote, “Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.” Some find it hard to smile at that. It’s a little too close to home.
Dr Brian Harris Dr Brian Harris is the Principal of Vose Seminary and Pastor at Large for the Carey Group.
Life can bring one loss after another. The death of parents, then friends, then a spouse. These are harrowing losses. There is often the loss of health. It starts slowly ... The game that convinces us our time on the footy team is up. A decade or two later and we marvel that we were ever able to sprint around the field with zest and ease. And then the day dawns when we need a walker to get from one end of the room to the other. Life’s relentless cycle moves
along, youth has gone and frailty is the new reality. For some it is even harder. Perhaps you know the John Milton quote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can create a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.” It’s fine if your mind leads you along the first path (and the resilience of some people is truly a gift), but what if it turns the secure and loving into a place of terror and torment? While it would be nice to think that we are fully in control
of our mental health, we are not. Just a slight shifting in the chemical balance in the brain, and we experience our world differently. Be it that we hear voices inaudible to others, or are overwhelmed by depressive episodes that make getting out of bed too hard to contemplate, the mind sometimes takes us along unexpected paths. Traditionally the church has been good at reaching out to those facing physical frailty. Need some help with
a wheelchair and a dozen volunteers are readily at hand. But when someone’s mind needs some sick leave, we are less sure how to act. Why not as we always should – with kindness, openness, respect, good humour, compassion and care? As we do, we might both see the world more clearly.
When my world quakes In our part of the world it’s difficult to comprehend what it means to live through a devastating earthquake. But if you or I were living in Christchurch in 2011 when 185 people lost their lives we would probably have an appreciation of the tensions that lie unseen deep below the surface of our world.
Steve Izett Steve Izett is the Pastor at South Perth Baptist Church.
I’ve experienced a few of my own internal earthquakes that have caused some of the supportive structures of my inner world to come crashing down. And I’ve been thankful for the relief that can be found through medication and counselling. Yet the paradox is that earthquakes are essential to life on this planet. Without the release of those massive forces deep within the earth, none of us would be here. And I’m learning that they
are essential for my inner personal growth as they reveal tensions hidden deep below the surface of my inner world. James wrote: ‘Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.’ [James 1:2, The Message] Perhaps CS Lewis understood what James meant when he penned: “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Our prayers so often betray our actual beliefs, and here they
reveal my juvenile unspoken expectation that life could or should be problem and pain free. All too often instead of seeking to listen for what the Spirit of truth is whispering to me, my prayers immediately turn to requests for the removal of any pain. In my haste I can miss His grace as He seeks to release in me dangerous fault lines, that if left will bring devastation. I’m learning that when my world quakes, it’s very probably my
Saviour graciously delivering me from myself. “Lord, when I think that I have given all that I have to give and realise in a moment’s honesty that it is I who am the recipient, Deliver me from myself. Lord, when I have convinced myself that I am poor and realize in a moment’s honesty that I am rich in pride and envy, Deliver me from myself. And, Lord, when the Kingdom of Heaven merges deceptively with the kingdoms of this world, Let nothing satisfy me but God,” Mother Teresa.
letters to the editor send us your letters The Advocate welcomes your letters to the editor on topics of concern to you and the community. Send your letters of no more than 100 words to email@example.com by the 10th of each month.
mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
Bring your brokenness
Hi. My name is Rob. I am a pastor and I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). a paradoxical way; God has used my mental illness to reinforce this truth in my life and in the lives of others. What I am driving at is that as human beings, created in the image of God, we are so very fragile. This fact alone then ought to change the way in which we both relate and view people – as fallen image bearers who long for love and acceptance just as we are.
Out of my brokenness, God ministers to their brokenness.
Photo: Sarah Wickham
In any given year, roughly one in every five Australians will suffer from a mental illness and around 14 percent of Australians will also experience an anxiety disorder in the same twelve month period. Given that OCD is an anxiety disorder and I am a pastor, this is not exactly the ideal mix of personality with profession! But here is the interesting thing. It would seem that the prevalence and occurrence of mental illness is the same among people born overseas. In the USA, one in four people suffer from a mental illness and one study revealed that this prevalence was the same among pastors – I don’t think that it is unreasonable to assume that clergy here mirror the same statistic as the Australian population. So what has OCD taught me? It has made me a more compassionate pastor. Since being diagnosed almost ten years ago – I had lived with this for the first 46 years of my life – I have been able to share my journey with others and God has opened up doors for me to listen with grace to people who are struggling with far worse than me: deep depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. I have found that God has enlarged my heart for these strugglers. I am able to listen to them, be empathic with them and to pray for them. Out of my brokenness, God ministers to their brokenness. And they have also ministered to me. I have also discovered in a new way the truth that David expresses in Psalms – we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ [Psalm 139:14] We are incredibly complex creations of God and in
Pastor Rob Furlong with his wife Karen.
It has also taught me how utterly dependent upon God I need to be. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul struggled with his ‘thorn in the flesh’ but he also learned through his weakness, that God was able to use him in profound ways. I have been discovering the same. There have been times when I have been overwhelmed by my illness and yet God has done amazing things that could never have been achieved had I been strong in myself. My name is Rob. I am a pastor and I have a weakness. I don’t like it but I am ‘content with it’ (well, I’m getting there!). ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.’ [Philippians 4:13]
Where to go for help Lifeline Western Australia lifelinewa.org.au 13 11 14 Lifeline WA provides Western Australians experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide with access to a 24/7 crisis support line. RUOK? ruok.org.au Start a conversation with colleagues, friends and family about their mental health. Find out how!
Beyond Blue beyondblue.org.au 1300 224 636 Advice and Support for Anxiety and Depression. headspace headspace.org.au The national youth mental health foundation dedicated to improving the wellbeing of young Australians.
Kids Help Line kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 A counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25. MensLine Australia mensline.org.au 1300 78 99 78 MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men.
digital church 07/09/16
JD Greear jdgreear.com We can’t force God to answer our prayers. But I can guarantee this: He’s not going to answer your prayers if you aren’t praying them. Are we out praying for people – for our unbelieving neighbours, for our family, for our coworkers, for our baristas and servers?
when you may have no reason to celebrate yourself. Resist the temptation to let envy dictate the truth about you and others.
Kyle Idleman twitter.com/KyleIdleman We were made for God, and until He is our greatest pleasure, all the other pleasure of this life will lead to emptiness.
lifeway.com/pastors Spiritual maturity is the ability to celebrate others, even
odb.org We aren’t promised deliverance from every difficult situation we face. But we can be confident that
God hears our prayers and will walk alongside us through everything.
if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.
Daniel Darling thegospelcoalition.org We should ask ourselves: How do we see the Sunday gathering? Do we see it as an inspirational TED Talk with good music? Or do we see it the way the New Testament does, as God’s called-out people assembling for worship and mobilising for mission?
CS Lewis twitter.com/CSLewisDaily We are mirrors whose brightness,
Max Lucado twitter.com/MaxLucado God has enough grace to solve every dilemma you face, wipe every tear that you cry, and answer every question you ask.
Rick Warren pastorrick.com/devotional God didn’t put you on Earth to live a self-centred life. His purpose for you is to build your life with Him at the core.
You were planned for God’s pleasure. He made you to love you, and He wants you to love Him back.
John Piper desiringgod.org If you will give yourself to His cause in the world, rather than fretting about your private material needs, He will make sure that you have all you need to do His will and give Him glory.
mental health edition
Dark waves to happy dances
My childhood was normal and in many ways privileged, coming from ‘the posh end’ of Glasgow with good schools and opportunities. My parents were loving and hard-working and there were plenty of friends and family close by. I didn’t know God. It is hard to know where the illness came from, although it would be many years before I realised that I was in fact ill. I may never know the answer. My experiences of depression and anxiety have been varied. At its worst, I managed to describe it as waves of darkness pressing down, stealing my breath and my energy. There was no time between the tormenting waves and life was frightening and exhausting. I felt so grotesque that I didn’t want to inflict my presence on anybody, as if the inside of my head was visible and would contaminate the world. It was a relief to discover at the age of 21, when admitted to a wonderful psychiatric hospital, that there were names for all the symptoms. I realised I was not the only one and that life was not supposed to be lived like that, suffering so much simply
by being in my head. It was quite a shock to discover that other people thought, felt and viewed the world differently. Most importantly, people wanted to help me find a way to a healthy head. My treatment was intensive for five months, before incorporating everything methodically into my days for a long period before it became automatic. Relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioural therapy, goal setting, problem solving, anxiety management, art therapy, time management and even eating were all packed into my days along with a diverse bunch of people. We laughed and cried in equal measures. My recovery was gradual and clinical although I had high hopes that I would feel whole and fulfilled. It wasn’t until a few years later when I was introduced to Jesus at a bus stop that I would know His loving wholeness! Giving my life to Christ changed my life in more ways than this article allows. Over the years and after having babies I have experienced depression and anxiety again but in a different way. There was no fear. In the
darkness there was a light and I have felt closer to God in those times than when in good mental health. With each temporary time of illness, I have chosen to use it as a time to stop, reflect, learn and grow through it, and God’s comfort has more than outweighed the debilitating symptoms. For those living with depression and anxiety, please know that there is help and there is hope. There is hope when someone comes alongside you and gives freedom, safety and acceptance to be exactly as you are at the time. Help will come from those who will hold space for you, remind you of your real self when you forget what you used to be like. Help may be prescribed or referred but will hopefully teach strategies, offer comfort, coping skills and ways to more than just keep your head above water. God is good, loving and ever faithful. He is quick to point out my negative talk, stating, “That is not from me. It serves no purpose. Give it no value.” I thank God for His goodness as I do my happy dance. Next steps: Reach out to a friend or someone you can trust.
Photo: Janet Cassidy
There are times when I feel the need to do a happy dance, when I feel so full of joy that I might explode if I don’t express it. Fortunately, as a children’s pastor, I don’t need to have or maintain any level of ‘cool’ and my outbursts frequently go by unnoticed and accepted. Life hasn’t always been this much fun and I am grateful to have been shaped by the challenges and shadows of depression and anxiety, as they have enriched my experience of the full force of joy.
Janet Cassidy is today the Children’s Pastor at Quinns Community Baptist Church, but has experienced the challenges of depression and anxiety.
Make an appointment with your GP or look up one of the many counselling services available, some of which are Christian and can be covered by Medicare. Know that you are not alone. You are loved and accepted by
the King of Kings. ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’ [1 Peter 5:7] Janet Cassidy is the Children’s Pastor at Quinns Community Baptist Church.
A conversation in the church about mental health
The statistics show that many people in Australian society will experience mental health issues over their lifetime. These people are drawn from all levels of society, different ethnic groups, males and females, and different ages. Mental health issues are pervasive in our communities. Mental health issues affect people in our churches too. Chances are in any given congregation there are people experiencing a broad range of mental health issues. In addition, there are those who are living with and supporting those who are. Recently, we’ve found these issues have been coming to surface in our church. We’ve heard comments from people who have said they have never felt understood in church. Others have felt they have been the only ones struggling. Others have felt and even been told that there is an expectation among
Christians that somehow mental health issues won’t affect them or that prayer would fix the issues straight away. So, we’ve started a conversation in which people who have had mental health issues, those who care for others, and those interested in assisting, can share together. It is difficult for me, as a pastor, to hear how people have felt unheard or unsupported by churches. It’s difficult to hear about people struggling in private because they felt the church might not understand their situation. But it’s encouraging for people to share their stories, and hear the
stories of others, and perhaps now feel that they are not alone in their journey. And it’s encouraging to realise that there are people who feel they would like to help others. Where are we at in this journey? We’re just beginning. We’ve had two nights where people have come together. We’ve shared some stories. We’ve shed some tears. We’ve reflected together on what ministry might look like in our context. We’ve got a few people interested in
The plethora of topics and issues being discussed at Riverton Baptist Community Church.
being involved in leadership in the journey. We’ve got some who work in mental health. It’s all in the mix. But we’re trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide us as to how we can better care for people. It’s a common issue
in society, we’re feeling God is putting it on our radar in the church. How about you? Mike Bullard is the Lead Pastor at Riverton Baptist Community Church.
mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
My first year of high school saw massive change occur in my family. My dad got a job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and as there were no suitable schooling options I began boarding school in Perth on my thirteenth birthday. Very quickly, deep sadness set in because I missed my family. Over the course of the first term, this sadness had become depression. Now, I was a well-built kid who still had ‘puppy fat’ and in high school things like this get picked on! The combination of depression and being hyperconscious of my weight exploded into the mental sickness Anorexia Nervosa. For me this was an uncontrollable state of mind that convinced me I was overweight, regardless of what others said or what the mirror reflected back. When I looked in a mirror (which was far more often than I should have been) despite seeing the exposed ribs, my mind would not register ‘thin’ but only see the imperfections. I would restrict food, exercise excessively and then on occasion have a
food binge (eating six packets of chips), then make myself throw up afterwards. My behaviour was diagnosed as Bulimia Nervosa. Looking back, my situation must have been incredibly frustrating for my family and friends to handle. I would ask multiple times a day to pretty much everyone I met, “Do you think I’m fat?” I once asked my friend Max, “Have you injected this apple with fat?” when we were having a snack at his house. Very odd indeed. I’m no professional but I would suggest that a person who has an eating disorder has unique stressors at play in their lives. It’s like when you try to pop an underinflated balloon but all that happens is that a side of it bulges
out. When you are being squeezed on multiple sides by multiple factors something somewhere has to give. The things that snapped for me and fellow sufferers was our self-image, and our disorder was our attempt to regain control. It felt normal to live in the tension of loathing your body as well as needing to worship it. So how did I get healthy again? The journey was long and I must admit, there are still days now when I feel insecure about my physique. It is no longer the all-consuming mania that once drove my life, but more like a scarred perception of self that still whispers self-doubt. Ultimately, getting seriously committed to sport was what took me out of the cycle. I guess that having something I wanted to attain that involved needing to be physically fit broke the cycle. Wonderfully, God has been faithful in his promise to work out situations for the good of those who love Him. Despite being terrible, this first-hand experience has helped me to empathise and assist people who are going through similar situations now. There is always hope.
Photo: Ed Devine
Reflecting on my eating disorder
Ed Devine as a teenager – sufferers live out the tension of loathing and worshipping their body.
Adventures in fathering It’s no secret that parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. But father of three Daniel Highman is trying to help Perth dads out. Focusing on facilitating strong father-child relationships, Daniel founded Dad Trips WA to make it easier for fathers to spend quality time with their kids, by running getaway weekends for fatherchild pairs in the south-west of Western Australia.
“We want to provide the space for fathers to focus on relationships with their children – particularly one-on-one time,” Daniel said. In everyday life, Daniel says it’s the things that are designed to make our lives easier that
challenge the father-child relationship the most. “It’s a busy world. It’s easy to get tied up in emails and social media and before you know it, you’ve spent a couple of hours on the iPad and your son might be doing the same,” he said. A father of three boys himself, Daniel is no stranger to the difficulties of intentionally carving out time for his kids. “Sometimes that work-life balance isn’t right.”
“There may be a disconnect for whatever reason – some fathers might not live with their children; some might have demanding jobs.” After taking his first trip away with one of his sons, Daniel realised that the trip gave them both much needed quality time and strengthened their relationship. “You realise that one‑on‑one time is really important, particularly if you’ve got other children.”
“That’s what Dad Trips WA is all about, making it possible for dads to be able to do it with their own kids.” For further enquiries about upcoming outings and weekend trips, email firstname.lastname@example.org
mental health edition
Social isolation and loneliness
With the ageing of Australia’s population, social isolation and loneliness among older people is increasingly recognised as a public health issue. Research shows a direct link between loneliness and a range of health conditions including depression, increased cognitive decline and even early death. Older people are more likely to live on their own and to go out less often, which puts them at greater risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness. A Journal of Health and Social Behavior article showed those who feel the most socially isolated were found to have 65 percent more depressive symptoms than those who feel less isolated. One way of combating social isolation and loneliness is through home support services which enable people to maintain quality relationships, have social support and engage in meaningful activities. These services play a vital role in supporting the mental wellbeing of people in the community. They are particularly valuable for older people who are less mobile and unable to leave home for whom staying connected
to the community and fostering meaningful relationships can be especially challenging. Baptistcare At Home Services recipient Jack and his wife Ann have limited mobility and look forward to the support workers’ regular visits, not only for the assistance provided around the home, but because they highly value the social interaction. Ann said, “We’re happy. Having people coming in keeps things interesting for us. They all talk to Jack and it makes him really happy. We’ve had four girls work with us and they’ve all been gorgeous. We look forward to them coming.” Similarly, Lois has strong relationships with her support workers who have been supporting her at home through Baptistcare for 15 years. “Through the years I’ve had magic help from them. They’ve absolutely done a great job. I have a special connection with them. They’re good and kind to me, people I can rely on,” Lois said. For Lois, who lives on her own, the support workers have provided crucial emotional and practical support during difficult times of battling chronic health problems.
Human relationships and meaningful social interaction form an important part of a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Jack (centre) and Ann (right) with Baptistcare Support Worker Gabrielle Udy (left).
“I had tumours in my throat, brain stem and back. I was in hospital for eight months and after having surgery I ended up having to learn to walk again, sit up, and how to pick things up. I was very fragile.” “They’ve looked after me ever since through thick and thin, through days when I’m not coping that wonderfully. The things they’ve done for me are amazing,” she said.
The support Lois receives also enables her to get out into the community and participate in the activities she enjoys. “I go out shopping, to my appointments and down to Exercise for Life on Fridays. I’m looking forward to going to the movies, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Western Australia Museum and Elizabeth Quay with my support workers too!”
There are a variety of services which are funded or partly funded by the Australian Government, or can be paid for privately. For more information visit www.baptistcare.com.au/ home-services or call 1300 660 640.
The importance of workplace mental health Mental health is an increasingly important topic in the workplace. It is estimated that at any point in time one in six working age people will be suffering from mental illness, which is associated with very high personal and economic costs. Mental illness is one of the leading causes of sickness absence and long-term work incapacity in Australia and is one of the main health related reasons for reduced work performance. Individuals with mental health problems, and their caregivers, are some of the most stigmatised and marginalised groups in the workplace and often miss out on the many benefits good work can offer. Australia’s first research review of workplace mental health has identified proven techniques to improve mental health at work. The review, titled ‘Developing a mentally healthy workplace: A review of the literature’, was
conducted by Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales for the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance. The review was launched by the Chair of the National Mental Health Commission Professor Allan Fels. Professor Fels said: “Poor mental health is a significant burden on our economy. The direct financial impact of mental ill health on Australian businesses is in the vicinity of $11 billion every year, largely due to absenteeism and reduced productivity.” “The opportunity cost of not promoting good mental health at work, and not supporting people who have mental illness or care for others who do is therefore very, very high.”
“Nonetheless, almost all of us have witnessed people and practices in the workplace that ignore the needs of individuals or sometimes the whole team, and the resulting impacts such as staff turnover, absenteeism, low productivity and poor morale.” “A lot of what the research confirms is common sense. For example, things like smarter work design and positive work cultures are key to preventing mental health problems, while promoting resilience and early intervention can both help minimise negative impacts and support recovery.” “In an economy struggling to increase productivity, reducing the huge impact of mental ill health must be a priority. It’s important for businesses of all sizes to step up and take action, because you will only make things better, both for your people and for your bottom line,” Professor Fels said. Dr Samuel Harvey, Black Dog Institute Lead investigator
said improving workplace mental health will also have significant benefits for the wider community. “In Australia, about 60 percent of the population spends about 60 percent of their waking hours at work. This means workplaces are a prime location to base mental health programs.” “By implementing good quality mental health management across all levels of business, we will not only
improve productivity but reduce the unacceptably high rates of mental ill health among Australians.”
mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
The Church an mental health Dr Neale Fong is Chairman of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention and Bethesda Hospital Chairman. He also holds several other leadership roles in the health community, including Chairman of the WA Country Health Services (WA Government), Director of Australis Health Advisory, Professor of Healthcare Leadership at Curtin University and Western Australian State
You have had a long and varied career in Western Australia holding a variety of leadership positions, can you explain your career path so far and your current roles? I completed a medical degree at UWA and five years after that considered making a transition into a church based career ministry. I completed a masters in theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, but was strongly encouraged to stay in the marketplace working as a medical doctor with a faith base, integrating my faith into my everyday work. I completed an MBA at UWA and have been involved in health leadership and administration for the past 25 years. I’ve been the Director General of the Department of Health in Western Australia as well as the Chief Executive for St John of God Hospital, Subiaco and also carried leadership roles in the Churches of Christ and Western Australian Football. How did you become a Christian and develop a faith in Christ? I was brought up in a Christian home and so early on made a commitment to Christ and that has been maintained over the years, not without times of doubt and moving away from the church, but not so much away from Christianity. I was heavily influenced by and involved in Christian Youth Camps in the Christian Brethren for many years. It was there that I gained a desire to work with young people in particular, which led me to establish Youth Vision here in Western Australia, the youth department of Churches of Christ. How has your Christian faith impacted your career? Does it bring any challenges? Working in the public sector, one certainly has to be careful about how you
go about expressing your Christianity. Clearly the way you behave and act in any role can also be an expression of your Christian faith. Working in St John of God Hospital, a faith based organisation, I had the great opportunity to be a leader in an organisation which was faith centred. It didn’t make it any easier, the challenge was that you still have a secular workforce so you still have to articulate the mission of the organisation in the context of the gospel. But it is more challenging in a sector that is not faith based because the foundations are not fully understood or necessarily accepted. You have to express your faith more through your leadership style and your behaviours as you develop a transformative culture. You are the Chair of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention, what role does this organisation play in the community? It is the peak advisory group to the Minister for Mental Health in suicide prevention. It draws together a wide range of members of the community, most whom have had some direct experience with suicide. We are there to help the minister and the Government develop the strategy, assist with the design of its implementation and then monitor the strategy roll out and evaluate its effectiveness. We have been responsible for assisting develop the last two suicide prevention strategies for the State Government. It is estimated that approximately 45 percent of Australian adults will experience a mental disorder sometime in their lifetime – how big an issue is mental health in our communities? Mental health is probably the biggest health issue in our community. It is by far the biggest issue in terms of its
impact measured by financial cost, illness, mortality and other indicators. One in four people have some form of mental ill-health and one in two people will experience some type of mental illness or ill health in their lifetime. It is a massive issue, ranging from anxiety and stress through to psychoses. Suicide is the tragic end point to a lot of mental health problems. That is not to say that everybody who has a mental health issue will have suicidal thoughts or ideation, or attempt to take their own life. But we do know that nearly 90 percent of people that do end up taking their own life usually have some preexisting mental health issue. In WA one person a day dies by suicide – the impact of this on families, friends and workplaces is enormous. What role can workplaces play in addressing mental health and suicide prevention? The widespread impact of suicide is probably the most telling. The problem is that for every person that takes their own life in Western Australia there are 30 other people who have actually attempted to do so that day – that’s staggering. And, another 90 have actually thought about it. That’s daily, not over a week. I describe it has the ‘pebble in the pond’ – when it drops in the pond, the ripples go wider and wider. Any death does do that, but suicide often takes people by surprise so you are not prepared for it. So, the impact on family, friends and workplaces is even greater. US research has shown that for every suicide at least 135 people are directly affected. Workplaces are important because we know that a third of your life you sleep, a third is at home and the other third you are in education or the workplace. So, there are great
opportunities to expose people to how they can overall be more mentally healthy – through the workplace. One of the strategies in our state is to develop programs and awareness in the workplace. What are the main barriers to people seeking help and treatment for mental health? The key barrier is that it is still a bit of a taboo subject in Australian society and the potential stigma of putting your hand up to say you do have a mental health condition is alive and well. It’s getting better, particularly with a lot of prominent people in business and sport talking about it. ‘I’m not in control of my life’, ‘I’m not coping’ and ‘I’m a failure’ are still the stigmatising issues that get in the way. This includes in our workplaces. We understand if you have a cold or flu you don’t come to work. But if you’ve got a mental health issue it is still not ‘acceptable’ to colleagues, or even employers, that it’s an issue that does needs to be dealt with. Do you think there is still a stigma about mental health and mental health treatment within churches? And what are some of these views and issues? The church is the same as any other part of society. At least one in four people in our churches would have a mental illness and stigmatising attitudes are found within it as well. Pastors are not exempt from having mental health issues. One of the things I raised with the Heads of Churches in Western Australia is that we don’t seem to talk about it very much in our churches and they agreed with me. Research from America shows even though this is one of the major [issues] – it is an epidemic in American society – the church and pastors rarely talk
mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
nd its role in President for the Australasian College Services Management. The Advocate caught up with Dr Fong to discuss his work in the area of mental health in Western Australia, and his views on how this issue is perceived in churches and what people can do to help people experiencing these issues.
What needs to be done to break the stigma of mental illness in the Church? And what can churches do to help people journeying with mental health challenges? The challenge I throw out to the Christian churches is that we have a great opportunity to be a catalyst to at least talk about mental health. I think sporting organisations have taken a lead role in trying to deal with issues of stigma, discrimination and mental health,
and I encourage the churches to play a greater lead role. Leverage your position within the community by weight of the number of people that are part of your churches and speak out in leadership. Try and ‘unconfuse’ some of the tie-up between spiritual issues and mental health, which I think has sometimes led to poor outcomes for individuals, and be part of the community effort, which is about talking authentically and honestly about suicide and mental health overall. One of the great places to start would be in our support and training of our pastors and ministers because they too struggle with this individually, as well as having a key role in highlighting the church’s potential leadership role.
Definitions Mental Health A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Health Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. (World Health Organization)
Suicide in Western Australia: Facts and figures • • • •
In WA, 1 person a day dies by suicide on average (8 per week). Higher than deaths on the road (3 per week). For every suicide, there are estimated to be 30 attempts. Someone who has previously attempted suicide or lost someone close to suicide is at greater risk of suicide.
(This Working Life)
Mental illness in the Church • • • •
Photo: Curtin University
about mental health from the pulpit. Some churches have embraced this issue and are trying to deal with it through counselling services and so on. But in general there’s been a lack of effort put in by churches to play a lead role in recognising the issues of stigma, breaking down barriers for people to access treatment and providing people with resources to find help. I think there has also been confusion in some people’s minds about the fact that if you do have mental health issues and you’re not coping, then maybe it’s a spiritual issue and you need to get your spiritual life in order so everything else will be okay. There’s this really crazy kind of perception or psyche where you know you are not coping, then you hear that it might actually be spiritual failure, so you don’t come forward because you have failed at trying to live a victorious spiritual life. Sometimes I think the [spiritual] language that is used in churches and the associated guilt that comes with that really compounds mental health issues for people who attend church. You would expect that mental issues are more prevalent in church congregations than normal society because we know we welcome people that have recognised that there are needs in their life that need to be filled. The church is a place where we say we are open to the needs of all people and to all people’s needs.
66% pastors once a year, rarely or never talked about mental illness. 59% of the individuals and family of members with mental illness wanted the church to talk about it. 59% of pastors had counselled one or more people with mental illness. 38% pastors strongly agreed (43% agreed) that they felt equipped to identify a person who may need medical attention. 56% of pastors strongly agreed that churches have a responsibility to provide resources and support. 23% of pastors indicated a personal struggle with mental illness of some kind.
Findings from three groups surveyed: • 1,000 Protestant pastors • 355 Protestant people diagnosed with a mental illness • 207 Protestant family members of people with acute medical illness
Dr Neale Fong has a passion for assisting people experiencing mental health issues and raising awareness of these issues within the Church and community.
(LifeWay Research, Southern Baptist Convention, USA)
10 mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
All too often images of inhumanity, crisis and suffering flash across our line of vision, reflecting the devaluation and fragility of life. One would expect to become desensitised to these events, however the opposite appears to ring true. We are becoming more distressed and fearful, when considering anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and that, on average, one in four people will experience it in their lifetime. When we explore the greater landscape of our anxieties, we see trauma as resulting from our experience of extraordinarily stressful events that threaten and challenge our everyday existence. It is an intrusion on our personal world, cutting across normal life and creating unrest. It sneaks up on us in many ways, holding us hostage and leaving us feeling helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world. Emotional and psychological trauma may stem from a ‘single blow’ one-off event such as a natural disaster, a violent attack, critical accident, or major medical procedure. It often represents a threat to life or safety, but any
situation that leaves one feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic. Quite often we don’t consider the impact of the sudden death of a loved one or a broken relationship as traumatic. Trauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress that emanates from repeated experiences commonly associated with institutional or family abuse, domestic violence, workplace harassment, schoolyard bullying, or chronic illness. Physiologically, the resonations of trauma can be intense and unbearable. It is a resounding gong that reverberates through the body, sending our central nervous system into ‘flight-flight-freeze’ overdrive, in an attempt to regulate the force of the crisis. It becomes conditioned and generalised into regular life, as a way of moderating the mental ripples and emotional shockwaves set off by reminders of our experience or event. We are left reeling with a sense of powerlessness, helplessness, feeling startled and exposed and terrified of our uncertain world and more so, panicked by our uncontrollable internal dynamic. At times we struggle to reconcile
Photo: Ed Gregory
It is an increasingly familiar occurrence. We sit watching the aftermath of traumatic events across the globe from the comfort of our living rooms. We see packed music halls drenched in blood; nightclubs and their patrons ripped apart by gunfire.
A crowd of people gather in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
strong feelings of confusion, anger, guilt and shame. Trauma pushes against our core values, our perceptions of ourselves, others and the world. It challenges our sense of safety and security. Often we struggle to understand injustice, mistreatment, suffering and evil, causing us at times to question God. The process of making sense of our experience is integral to healing the hurts of trauma and moving forward. Indeed, this is as important as managing the physical, mental and emotional manifestations that are normal
reactions to unanticipated and uninvited experiences. As Christians, our theological framework helps us come to terms with the world we live in. Our Gospel of grace informs our responses. When we understand the depths to which Jesus went to save the world from sin and brokenness; when we realise that the great traumatic event of the cross was reversed at the resurrection; and when we realise that the ruling, reigning Christ provides us with a security that is unshakeable and a hope beyond the trauma of this age, we can
point to a way forward. These realities guide us into compassion for those who are struggling. They enable us to forgive. They give us confidence in true justice and mercy that will one day restore order and wholeness to our mind, body and soul; and to His created world. Jill McAlpine is a Director and Principal Clinical Psychologist of Avenue Psychology, located in Midland. WA Centre for Traumatic Stress operates out of her practice. For appointments, call 9274 6852.
Moving on from the loss of a loved one can be difficult, especially when the death is from suicide. I can remember lying in bed on the night my husband Peter died, thinking ‘if ever I get the opportunity to speak to others about suicide, I’ll do it.’ My life, and the life of our family changed in April 2009 when my husband, Peter, suicided. He was a committed Christian, a Deacon within our church, much loved by his family, respected and well liked within our community. To the outsider, it seemed he had it all, but inside he was struggling with the black dog of depression. Peter’s death not only affected Amy (17), Daniel (13), Josh (10) and I, it affected both of our immediate and extended families, our church, community, business relationships and circle of friends. We are all left with questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven. Mostly, we’re left with the question why?
Mental illness, depression, suicide and Christianity are challenging issues to piece together. Suicide within the Christian church isn’t going away; it’s a problem we all must face. I stood at the sideline of my husband’s life, watching him struggle for months at a time, searching scripture and seeking counsel from mature Christians. I even witnessed Peter sprawled out prostrate on the floor, pleading for God to reveal himself once again, it was a heartbreaking scene. The anguish of depression is relentless, it has energy of its own, which to the sufferer brings inner torment, loss of reason and hope.
As Christ’s body of believers, how can we help those tortured by this overwhelming anguish? Will the issue of mental illness dissipate if we ignore it? My family and I experienced a number of reactions from those around us. Some offered practical help, words of encouragement or an embrace of compassion, all offered in the spirit of love. Some didn’t know what to do and found it easier to avoid us, the stigma of mental illness and suicide too difficult to challenge. One of the most beautiful responses I had was from a friend of mine who said, “I don’t understand how you’re feeling, I don’t understand why Peter did what he did, but I care for you and I’m here anytime you need to talk, day or night.” Such honest, simple, comforting words. As a family, we‘ve survived the tragedy of losing Peter. Over seven years later, it’s still hard. I miss him, I miss him a lot. I miss him at family gatherings, on happy occasions, when I’m feeling down, when I have
Photo: Kristy Patrick
The loss of a loved one
Tracey Kippin and her dog Spannar.
exciting news, when I’m doing the evening dishes, when I’m facing challenges, I miss climbing into bed and praying with him every night, I miss him. My life is different now, Peter is gone, our children are growing up and moving out of home. My identity has changed, no longer the wife I loved being. I’ve had to
find a new me, a woman who has learned to live with the loneliness and challenges of being a single parent, a woman who has found comfort and strength in her faith, a woman who is passionate about suicide awareness and prevention and has been blessed with many opportunities to share my story honestly and openly.
mental health edition 11 OCTOBER 2016
The aftermath of fire
Two of the families that were gifted funds shared about the hardships they had faced since the fire, moving from one place to another due to high rental costs and low housing availability. Both families, like the majority of the affected have indicated they hope to move back to the Yarloop township upon its rebuild. “There will be a Yarloop and our next step is to look at the options of what that represents then bring that back to the community to discuss,” State Recovery Controller Ken Michael said. Gavin Fisher, a retired Baptist pastor and his wife Linda, count themselves as being a part of the lucky ones not to lose their home on the outskirts of Yarloop. Their property sustained substantial damage, with flames leaving their sooty mark on the side of their wooden home. Linda recounted a sobering event, when months after the fire when moving some furniture around their lounge they discovered large amounts of soot and ash below their furniture. “God’s hand was upon our house that day and it’s only by His grace that it wasn’t destroyed,” Gavin commented. Pastor Sarah Baggaley and the Austin Cove Community Church has kept contact with a number of the affected families who have been gifted funds and continues in practical ways ‘to share the love of Christ with them’.
Connections Counselling WA offers affordable Christcentred Professional Counselling and Psychological Services across Perth. For further information or to make an appointment, please contact: M: 0499 942 551 E: email@example.com W: www.connectionscounsellingwa.com.au
Gavin Fisher and Mark Wilson discussing the effects of the fire on the surrounding property
Photo: Matthew Chapman
Following the devastation of the Waroona Yarloop fires, Baptist Churches Western Australia activated the Baptist Relief Fund, appealing to churches and their congregations to provide financial assistance to the many people who had been impacted by the fires. In total, $48,899 was generously gifted by members of Baptist churches throughout Australia. In the weeks following the fires, stories emerged of the impact on the lives of those in the fire zone. The residents of Yarloop who fled the township on the night of the fire not only lost homes, properties and pets to the fire, but were also kept from returning to the town due to the dangers of needing to raze fire ravished buildings and the presence of asbestos found on sites. In July Baptist Churches Western Australia Director of Ministries, Pastor Mark Wilson, along with Business Manager Greg Holland and Austin Cove Community Church Pastor Sarah Baggaley visited the fire affected area. They met with a number of families who had been impacted to give them financial assistance from the Baptist Relief Fund. “The stories shared by the families all had a common connection of being removed from their homes and people being disconnected from the communities they were once a part of,” Greg Holland said.
Photo: Matthew Chapman
On the morning of 6 January 2016, lightning strikes caused the ignition of two bushfires in the Darling Range that culminated in the destruction of 70,000 hectares, at least 162 houses and the deaths of two Yarloop residents Malcolm Taylor, 73, and Les Taylor, 77.
The impact of the fires can still be seen nine months down the track.
We are seeking a professionally qualiﬁed and experienced Events Coordinator to develop, project manage and implement successful events for the Baptist Churches Western Australia events ministry. You will be able to demonstrate your technical abilities and how you can use your events management and communication skills to meet our organisation’s needs. You will also love to serve and deeply share our Christian values and ethos. If this excites you and you want to join a great team, please make contact with Ross Daniels on 08 6313 6300 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this opportunity further.
12 mental health edition
Photo: R U OK
R U OK Volunteers out in force in Melbourne on R U OK?Day in September.
R U OK? calls on Australia to reconnect to prevent suicide R U OK? September 8 2016 was R U OK?Day and R U OK? is calling on all Australians to reconnect with someone they’ve lost touch with, as new research from the suicide prevention charity reveals one third of us have unintentionally lost contact with four or more family members or friends.
R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year. But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at ruok.org.au
Released on the 8th national day of action (Thursday 8 September), the research shows that 24 per cent of us have stopped talking with four to eight loved ones, and a further 10 per cent of us with nine or more people. R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis said that today’s the day to make a promise to change that. “As a community and as individuals, we’re stronger together and it’s important that we make more time for the people we care about,” Rebecca said. “Use today as an opportunity to start a conversation with someone you were once close to, as well as reach out to anyone you’re worried about. Then, make a
Summary of research findings:
commitment to be there for one another throughout the year.” Adding his voice to the call for regular, meaningful conversations between family and friends is Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “The more we talk, the more people are encouraged to seek help,” Prime Minister Turnbull said. “Checking in with each other is something we can all do to help those around us. So if you think someone you know might need help, ask the question: ‘Are you ok?’” R U OK? Conversation Expert Professor Nick Glozier said we’ve all got what it takes to be there for one another – because it ultimately comes down to listening and not judging what someone wants to share.
“Once you start a conversation and a mate opens up, don’t rush in or leap to conclusions,” Nick said. “It’s important that you listen to what they have to say and guide the conversation with more open questions. Don’t try and fix their problems - or provide the answers - but help them to identify what they can do to better manage the load.” For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more information, visit ruok.org.au
Respondents reported that they’d unintentionally lost contact with the below numbers of really close friends, family or colleagues, even though they wish they hadn’t: None – 26% 1 - 3 people – 40% 4 - 8 people – 24% 9 - 15 people – 6% More than 15 people – 4% Respondents reported that they’d met the people they’d lost in the following places: Primary or high school – 49% University, TAFE or similar – 28% Worked together – 48% Lived in the same neighbourhood – 27% Families were friends – 22% Were related – 15% Other – 6% The research was conducted on behalf of R U OK? by Colmar Brunton
mental health edition 13 OCTOBER 2016
Three top priorities for every leader
I hear the same refrain everywhere I go: “I’m so busy, tired, exhausted, running on empty. I don’t think I can handle this anymore. I don’t think I can keep this up much longer. Everything seems to be a top priority. I don’t know where to start!” In the name of simplicity, let me share three top priorities for every leader. If you are one of the fortunate ones who has an agreed-upon ministry or job description, there is a good chance these are not currently on that description, but should be if you are to lead the way that Jesus intends for you to lead. 1. Regularly listening to God If you are like me, there many voices – other people in my life and some inside my own head – telling me to do this or that, be here or there, help this person or that person. Of all the voices that I need to listen and respond to, first is that of God Himself. I need, with His grace, to live and lead for an audience of one. ‘ … and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by
name and leads them out.’ [John 10:3, (NIV)] Whatever your ‘spiritual disciplines’ are, make them a consistent, regular part of your daily and weekly rhythms. Cut down on all the other noises around you so you can tune into what He is saying to you and live in responsive obedience. 2. Constantly developing leaders Poor leaders do it all by themselves, good leaders invest in others to help them. If you are following a God-given, God size vision, you would be a fool to try and do it by yourself. You would also cheat others out of using their God-given talents by doing it all yourself. All leaders, regardless of their roles and responsibilities, need to be constantly pouring into the next generation of leaders so that: • You can focus on your unique contribution. • Others can maximise the total contribution that can be made. • Organisational morale will be high. I have never been involved with a church or Christian organisation that had enough leaders. Maybe one exists out there somewhere, but I have never encountered it or read about it. Mostly everyone is looking for new leaders. This mandates being proactive, intentional, deliberate and prayerful in deciding whom
to select, developing those you select and then deploying them in ministry. You will want to have both a philosophy and a pathway for leadership development. It will not happen accidentally. Every leader needs to be prayerfully looking around and focusing on a few future leaders. ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.’ [2 Timothy 2:2, (NIV)]
Whatever your ‘spiritual disciplines’ are, make them a consistent, regular part of your daily and weekly rhythms. 3. Pacing yourself Years ago I would ask leaders how they were doing and I would hear: “I’m super busy.” Today when I ask, I hear: “I’m super tired.” Pacing is critical to longevity in leadership. We need to remember that we are in a marathon – not a 100
metre sprint. By His grace, discovering and maintaining a healthy balance between ministry, personal and family is paramount. Learning how to practise Sabbath as a principle – not just a day – may save your life. Having times of intense engagement, intermingled with deliberate times of disengagement, will keep you physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.
‘You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am.’ [Psalm 139:3, (TLB)] ‘Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.’ [Matthew 11:28, (MSG)]
I like fixing things especially things I have little grasp of. In ‘noticing’ this, I was reminded how I find enjoyment in the accomplishment of tasks and problem solving. Perhaps I should do more of it. The second was a funny moment when we picked the kids up from youth group and I noticed the high school boys having a chin-up competition. I joined in and my 14 chin-ups raised a few eyebrows – hardly Olympic standard, but always nice to keep people guessing about what a 52-year-old body is capable of. I chuckled as I drove off with the kids. The joy was in the surprise. There was much in that day to be grateful for, to ‘pray about’ if you like, but I find the Examen exercise is most helpful for tuning in to the activity of God and to the more specific
and unique moments that bring energy to my soul. You can’t manufacture those moments, but noticing them, seeing a pattern and then living in line with them is just another way of being more fully the person God has created you to be.
Used with permission from Dave Kraft, www.davekraft.org
The Daily Examen exercise
Each evening when my head hits the pillow, the last thing I do is an Examen exercise, a focused reflection on the day that has passed, giving thanks, looking for high points, low points, energy spikes, darkness, relational connections and the presence of God in all of it. It’s a very simple but effective way of daily noticing what is happening in life and of seeing God’s hand. In the movement of the day it’s a bit harder to be conscious of the Spirit’s work, but in the silence and dark of the night as I replay the day’s events in my mind I am able to join some dots, glean insights and get curious about what God may be doing. Yesterday was a fairly typical Friday – a ‘church’ day for me – with meetings, people connections, administration and a bit of down time. It was so typical that it would have been
easy to miss the moments of joy and fun. But an examination allows you to tune into the often unseen moments of gladness and pain that may otherwise go unobserved. And it was a surprising few minutes of reflection. As I turned the light off and gave thanks the first images foremost in my mind were some Facebook pictures I had just seen of my 13-year-old son Sam, doing his first talk to the kids groups he is involved with leading. It was inspiring and joy giving – to see him doing it – but also to hear
him articulating the nature of his own faith as we drove home. As I looked for matters to be alerted to, I was reminded of a conversation from earlier in the day – a person who wasn’t doing so well and needed prayer and probably a follow-up conversation. I prayed for the person. When I looked for moments of joy where my energy levels rose, I found two that I didn’t expect. One was when I fixed the sound system in my car. I don’t know much about sound systems but I managed to track and fix the problem. Satisfying.
For more information, visit www.ignatianspirituality.com/ ignatian-prayer
Andrew Hamilton is the Team Leader, along with his wife Danelle at Quinns Baptist Church.
14 mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
Fighting suicide and depression
98five Music Director Chela Williams
Australian legendary gospel-rock and country singersongwriter Steve Grace is currently adventuring across Australia for a world first. From Shark Bay to Byron Bay, Steve is travelling from west to east on his Harley Davidson alongside his wife Kerrie and his three sons.
Kirste: You love your motorbikes. Let us know all the details because I don’t personally ride motorbikes but I’m sure there are a lot of people out there that are rev-heads. Steve: I grew up in Papua New Guinea, mum and dad were missionaries up there and Dad had an old 650 BSA Goldenflash and the whole family travelled on that. Mum and dad and the three kids! So I’ve grown up with motorbikes and I absolutely love Harley Davidson motorcycles. Nobody has ever ridden a Harley from the western most point of Australia, up at Shark Bay Steep Point across the Great Victoria Desert, across the Western Desert, across the Simpson Desert, across the Strzelecki and Stony Desert all the way across to Byron Bay. So I’m going to have a crack at it!
Morro: No one’s done it so someone has to right? Is that what you thought? Steve: When I knocked on the door at Harley Davidson at home they just said, “We don’t want to support this because we don’t build our bikes for this.” I thought that’s not really true because my dad had an old Harley and back in those days all the roads were dirt. And they were built for the war. Anyway, I’m trying to convince Harley Davidson to get on board with me but you know what? We’re going to do it anyway! I reckon this is bigger than the Olympics. I reckon it’s bigger than Ben Hur. I actually reckon this is bigger than an Eagles and Dockers grand final. Morro: That’s a big call! Where did you come up with this idea of Crossing Australia and what’s the ride for? Steve: It actually goes far deeper than just riding a motorcycle. The ride is all about depression and suicide prevention in isolated regions across Australia. The suicide rate is not slowing down here in this country. It’s the biggest killer in our country, bigger than car fatalities. And especially with young men from ages 16 through to 44, it’s the biggest killer of men in Australia. It’s been all over the news lately but it’s when you come face to face
The Crossing Australia project is more than just travelling across the country the hard way, but also aims to bring communities together to fight suicide and depression. An issue which is very close to the Grace family. Before Steve and his crew embarked on their adventure from the west coast in August, Steve caught up with 98five’s Brekky show with Kirste and Morro to share his heart behind Crossing Australia.
Award winning gospel-country artist Steve Grace is riding 5,000km across Australia to bring communities together to fight suicide and depression.
with it Morro – for Kerrie and I and our three boys, our middle son Ryan went through a very, very dark time about four years ago and attempted to take his life. That changed everything for us. I mean, here I am Steve Grace, country gospel singersongwriter travelling around the world telling people the good news and one of my own boys is going through the darkest time. I was actually at a Better Blokes conference over in a little place called Murrumbateman near Yass in New South Wales and I got this phone call. It’s a phone call that changed my life – “Steve, you
better come home, your son just tried to hang himself.” I had no idea just how bad things had got for Ryan. Look, it’s an amazing miracle story that Ryan is a suicide survivor and he’s coming on the Crossing Australia trip. Not only to ride Harleys with his dad but to share his story. Back in March, we did a tour in Victoria and I was just blown away with the line-up of people that wanted to talk to Ryan at the end of the night because here’s a young man that has made a few mistakes, been angry at life and angry at God and just came to the end of himself and yet God
has rescued him. I’m very grateful for that. You can follow Steve Grace Crossing Australia at www. crossingaustralia.com Listen to Brekky with Kirste and Morro every weekday from 6am on 98five.
Confronting suicide in Sydney Perth spoken word artist Licy Be is headed to the Sydney Opera House to perform in the Australian Poetry Slam 2016 National Final in October. and responsibility to talk about suicide,” Licy said. “It’s never about the platform; it’s always about the people that are listening, and the opportunity to offer hope.” “We can bring this to an end if we understand that it’s not someone else’s responsibility to save a life, it’s yours and mine.”
Photo: Exclusive Photography
After struggling with the issue of suicide in her own life, Licy Be understands the silent struggle that many are going through and sees this event as an opportunity to raise awareness about suicide and the responsibility that Australians have to bring it to an end. “This topic is more important than any competition. It’s an honour, privilege
Spoken word artist Licy Be
intermission 15 OCTOBER 2016
Welcome to the New
Amy Simpson When a family member was diagnosed with severe depression two years ago, conflicting thoughts in my own mind and opinions from those close to me started a journey to study the area of spiritual abuse, mental health and how the church sees and supports the victims of these situations. Amy Simpson has penned a much needed book, addressing the area of mental health and the church. Troubled Minds relates Amy’s personal family experience with mental health issues, the latest clinical research and surveys from pastors to overview the efforts of the church to understand and help those affected. Statistics show that currently at least one in four people have, or will develop, some kind of mental illness. These are significant numbers which beg for our understanding and are worthy of consideration. How do we as the church, the expression of Christ, accept, support and participate in the healing of our affected brothers and sisters? How do we love them well? Troubled Minds is easy to read for the layman and leads us onto the path that starts to explore these questions. – Andrew
Based on the book of the same name by Joseph Girzone, Joshua tells the story of a small town in rural USA. A stranger hitches a ride into the town and takes up residence in a barn. The stranger goes by the name Joshua and he is a mysterious, warm-hearted figure who is a carver by trade. Bit by bit he helps the town start to resolve their personal and denominational differences. After the report of a supposed miracle he attracts the attention of the Vatican and has a personal audience with the Pope. A beautiful story which draws you into imagining what Jesus would be like in today’s age and culture, the message of the love of God for His people rings out loud and clear. A wellmade film with some well-known actors as well. – Andrew
MercyMe The title song of Welcome to the New speaks of a realisation and appreciation of the grace of God. Sung from the position of someone who has done all of the ‘things’ – jumped through all the hoops and tried to keep all the plates spinning – only to discover that the grace of God declares their worth simply because He made them. Welcome to the New is an invitation to live in God’s grace, to enjoy Him while removing the need to impress Him by works, bringing relief and rest to the soul that is quite simply worn out. This flavour continues throughout the album with songs like ‘Finish What He Started’, ‘Flawless’ and ‘Wishful Thinking’, leading the listener to a place of rest and confidence that our loving Father will gently and completely do the work in us that we are striving to produce in ourselves. It seems this album has come from a lot of soul searching and life experience, a cry from someone who has discovered painfully that they are ‘not good enough no matter how hard they try’ but paradoxically that God wants us to come to that place so we can enjoy and experience His complete provision for us. An important message for us all. – Andrew
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16 mental health edition OCTOBER 2016
Mental health a priority for sports stars and governing bodies as big names speak up
English wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor announced in June her indefinite leave from cricket commitments, revealing a fouryear battle with performancerelated anxiety. Last summer Taylor had a superb season with the Adelaide Strikers and made history as the first woman to play men’s firstgrade cricket in Australia. She hopes taking this muchneeded break will prolong her successful career. “There have been times when I’ve had to run off into the changing rooms and be sick sometimes, through sheer panic,” Taylor told BBC Sport. “It happened mainly when I was just about to bat. The expectation of wanting to score runs, that was the hardest.” Cricketers, commentators and fans have reached out to offer their love and support. Taylor is one among many high-profile athletes to confess an internal struggle in the past decade. And it is important these instances are recognised, supported and used to educate others in the sporting industry. Similar kindness was shown to footballing heavyweight Lance Franklin last year, when he bowed out of the Swans’ season to deal with a mental illness. The AFL community also rallied around former Melbourne forward Mitch Clark back in 2014, when he announced he was retiring due to depression. Clark has been rather outspoken since, recently calling for a ‘Mental Health Awareness Round’ to be introduced to the league. Melbourne-based Sport and Exercise Physician Dr Peter Larkins, believes this prospect would help the issue gain further traction among AFL folk. “It’s obviously not exclusively men, but a men’s health round would be incredibly good at lowering the stigma and raising the awareness,” he said. Dr Larkins is pleased with the overall decrease in mental health misconceptions, but says problems surrounding player admission still remain.
“They say 10 per cent of the population in that typical sporting age group, have some mental health issues. So there’s no surprise that it represents what happens in society generally.” “But sportsmen are supposed to be tough and work through their problems, so the stigma of admitting you have a mental health problem has not completely been removed.” The NRL too is pushing mental health awareness in Australia. Its ‘State of Mind’ campaign, introduced to coincide with state of origin, marks the organisation’s commitment to acknowledge its okay not to be okay. Retired prop Dan Hunt has been heavily involved in the initiative, speaking to more than 40 grassroots clubs on ways to improve one’s mental health. He reiterates mental issues do not discriminate and can affect anyone, stressing early intervention is key. “Back when I was playing it was definitely something that wasn’t socially accepted. It was a taboo subject that you didn’t want to speak about as it was seen as a bit of a weakness,” Hunt said. “Now the research and study shows one in five people struggle in any one year, one in four people struggle with a mental illness in their lifetime and suicide is the leading cause of death in people 15-44 years old.” Hunt says he and other high-profile athletes are choosing to speak publically about their struggles in order to let players and fans know they are not alone. “I wanted to make sure people knew it was okay to struggle even if you are an NRL player, and it’s okay because it does take a stronger person to ask for help.” In June, the Wests Tigers donned blue socks in their game with South Sydney, in an effort to raise awareness
A shift in the way sporting bodies tackle mental health has encouraged high-profile athletes to speak out about their individual battles.
English cricketer Sarah Taylor at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup held in Sydney in 2009.
of help available, particularly beyond blue. These small gestures may seem small and inconspicuous, but really do help the cause ‘State of Mind’ is fighting for. “Those little steps or inches, they add up and when you add them up that’s going to make a real difference in the space of mental health,” Hunt said. “It’s making a lot of noise and changing the game for the better.” Reproduced by permission of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Library Sales © 2016 ABC
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The Advocate - October 2016