Evangelos (Evan) Bichara was born in Egypt from Greek Egyptian ancestry and has spent most of his life in Australia. He speaks fluent Greek, Egyptian, Arabic and English. He loves reading and extending his knowledge base on almost anything.
With a Diploma of Community Development from RMIT University, Evan gained work as a Mental Health Consumer Advocate funded by the Department of Health & Human Services in Victoria and has served many organizations at a National, State and Local level. Evan is an experienced presenter at conferences and have participated in numerous advisory, consultative, and planning committees that has supported my long-held desire for reform and improvement to the Australia wide mental health system.
Evan developed symptoms of schizophrenia and says that with proper treatments – medication, talking therapies and his own willpower he has been able to lead a fulfilling life out in the wider community. Evan says "My Lived Experience has helped shape and contribute to policy development and services across Australia. One of my achievements was to develop a statewide Multicultural Mental Health Support Group called Spectrum of Cultures which ran for 16 years meeting monthly with guest speakers who were invited to support participants to engage meaningfully with their local communities."
Evan joined the Spiritual Health Lived Experience Advisory Committee (SHLEAC) because it connects with his religious upbringing through his dearly beloved parents and his life of faith with his dedicated wife, Tammy. He believes it is important to look at a person’s spiritual/religious beliefs when working with them as this helps them to get through any health setback.
Evan states, "Religion for me, and I am sure for many others, provides a solid framework of belief, a sense of structure and typically offers likeminded people the means to connect with others who maybe experiencing similar issues. These facets can and do have a large positive impact on one’s mental health. Research suggests that religiosity reduces suicide rates, alcoholism, and drug use. I have observed that people often turn to their religion or spiritual beliefs when they need to make crucial medical decisions. Religion can impact decisions regarding diet, modesty, cardiovascular issues, immunity, emotional matters, mental health, and other issues."
Evan says that religion has had a life-saving influence, and believes that for community it improves overall health, learning methods, economic wellbeing, self-control, self-esteem, and empathy. He believes that it encourages people to become a vehicle for social change through more compassionate care to one’s fellow person.
As a great pioneer in the field of Lived Experience Mental Health coupled with religion/spirituality, Evan encourages others to seek advice where needed. For example, there are numerous digital mental health resources available that can be as effective as talking through an issue with someone. He believes it is critically important that everyone looks after their wellbeing, both in terms of mental and physical wellbeing, as one cannot function well without the other.
Evan shares "I have learnt that it is important to do things you enjoy, and this has contributed to my progress. Enjoyable activities together with regular exercise, managing stress, sleeping well, eating well, and connecting with others has supported my wellbeing. Now that I am almost retired, I enjoy staying home on a rainy day where I can wrap myself in a blanket and read. Above all else, take gratitude in your achievements, even if they are small. Work on your strengths and abilities, and always show love to those around you."
Through his involvement with SHLEAC, Evan will endeavor to offer what he has learned over many years to help create better services that achieve better outcomes for our fellow people who may have need of these services in times ahead.
SHLEAC formed in June 2021 to raise awareness through leadership, education and consultation of the need, importance, and place of spiritual care in mental health care. SHLEAC will achieve this by contributing to the Victorian Mental Health Reform process via the principles of co-design and co-production. As the host organisation, Spiritual Health Association welcomes the expertise and guidance from the advisory committee members. SHA e-news readership will get to meet other members of SHLEAC in future additions.