By Vatican News
The Catholic bishops of Australia are encouraging faith communities, governments and individuals to make mental health a priority, especially during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic when feelings of anxiety and despair are building in people.
In view of Social Justice Sunday, celebrated on 30 August, the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) released a statement entitled, “To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia today”.
Releasing the Social Justice Statement 2020-21, Auxiliary Bishop Terence Brady of Sydney, Bishop Delegate for the ACBC Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service, calls on all Catholics to take up the message and challenges contained in the statement.
The 19-page statement carries a foreword by ACBC president, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane.
Anxiety and despair
“This is a timely message in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is affecting many members of our parishes, schools and communities,” Bishop Brady says.
“The personal feelings of anxiety and despair we all share at this time,” he continues, “provide an opportunity to become more aware and active in fostering the mental health of all.”
The statement says that parishes, organisations and communities can be places of acceptance, inclusion, care and healing, not places of rejection, judgment or stigma against those experiencing mental health issues.
Vulnerable and disadvantaged people
The Catholic Church in Australia demands the commitment of governments and policy-makers to prevent so many people from falling through the cracks of the mental health system.
Citing Pope Francis, the statement says that the test of our society’s commitment to the common good is the care we show for the people who are most vulnerable or disadvantaged.
In this regard, the Australian Church calls on the nation to address policies that exacerbate the already precarious circumstances of Aboriginal Australians, refugees, asylum-seekers, homeless people and those who are in prison.
Not Jesus's way
“Our society tends to push away or draw away from those who confront us with our frailties and limitations,” Bishop Brady points out, adding, “This is not the way of Jesus.”
“Let us follow Him in drawing near to those who are experiencing mental ill-health and acknowledge that they are members of the Body of Christ – ‘they’ are part of ‘us’. Only then can we say ‘we are all in this together’. Only then can we ‘live life to the full’.”