This week the Spiritual Health Association (SHA) team and I have attended the Spiritual Care Australia (SCA) conference. We were delighted to be bronze sponsors for what has been such a rich and inspiring experience. As one of the SHA team expressed, “I feel a sense of nourishment and spaciousness that I haven't had for a long time.” Congratulations to all at SCA for providing such a wonderful event for the professional development of the sector.
There is so much to digest from the conference as it resonated perfectly with the focus of our newsletter this month.
This month in our newsletter we are putting the spotlight on mental health, spirituality and spiritual care, beginning with the launch of our new mental health page on the SHA website. You will find so much on the page to engage with, listen to, watch and learn from…. Did you know that both the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Psychiatry (RANZCP) and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) have position statements endorsing the place of spirituality as a resource, coping strategy and opportunity for healing and growth in the field of mental health and psychiatry? You can find both position statements here.
These moves recognising the importance of holistic care are significant, especially at a time when we know that 53% of Australians say that spirituality is connected to their mental wellbeing (The Future of Spiritual Care Report). In a keynote speech at the SCA conference, David Tacey described the conflict between the social masks we inevitably wear, and the reality of our inner life. This unresolved tension between the private (don’t mention the ‘s’ word) and public domains is causing a split in the national psyche, with 25% of Australians struggling with mental health issues. David quoted independent researcher, epidemiologist and writer Richard Eckersley from his book Well and Good, who describes the ‘epidemic of meaninglessness’ confronting so many people. We know that connecting to spirituality is about meaning-making, and spiritual care practitioners so often are the ones to create the safe spaces for the conversations about meaning, purpose and connection. Conference emcee, Steff Fenton in their closing summary of the conference said, “Post-pandemic more Australians are struggling with physical and mental health…there has never been a more important time than now to engage with your spirituality.”
SHA’s Mental Health Leader, Jenny Greenham, has been working consistently to bring this message home to the mental health sector through our collaborations with significant partners such as Mental Health Victoria, Victorian Transcultural Mental Health and Mental Health Australia. The establishment of the Spiritual Health Lived Experience Advisory Committee one year ago (Happy birthday SHLEAC!) ensures the voice of those with lived experience, who can speak to the importance of spirituality in their own recovery journeys, is able to inform the current mental health reform agenda both in Victoria and nationally.
We need to continue to raise our collective voice calling for a biopsychosocial-spiritual model of care across our healthcare system, including the mental health sector. It is time to make healthcare whole!
Cheryl Holmes, CEO