Spirituality & Diversity Discussions Project - 2022 year in review

A joint initiative with our valued partners Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH)

The Spirituality and Diversity project has been showcased in three different arenas in 2022 sharing data and learnings from the last four years. In April it was presented to the Victorian mental health sector via the monthly seminar series hosted by VTMH; in June to a national audience of spiritual care workers at the SCA Conference; and in October to a live audience drawn from across Australia and New Zealand at the annual Mental Health Services Conference (TheMHS) in Sydney.

In all forums audiences were keen to embrace the model of reflective practice that explores the fundamentals of spirituality, and its expression yet is an overlooked aspect of holistic person-centred care in mainstream mental health services. Most of the comments centred around, how do we scale up such a program to reach more mental health clinicians, recognising there is nothing else like this being offered elsewhere in Australia?

In 2022 seven 90-minute reflective practice spaces were offered to mental health sector workers, each session organised around a theme to focus and provoke discussion, and facilitated by mental health spiritual care workers, psychiatrists and education and learning consultants.

Themes for 2022 included:

  • Psychiatry and spirituality: Why are they such uncomfortable bedfellows?
  • Mental health recovery: Where is the healing, humility, and hope?
  • A crisis of meaning: Spiritual emergence or spiritual emergency?
  • Prayer, meditation, or medication: What’s your preference?
  • Spirituality as an integral part of the care plan: Is it on the radar in adult psychiatry?
  • Religious affiliation and the rise of mental illness in Australia: Is there a correlation?
  • Understanding religious trauma through spiritual care: Where to begin?

The facilitation team regularly observe participants (drawn from clinical, community and peer workforce) to the program enter the space and express a sense of relief at finding a like-minded cohort with whom they can connect to and share their experiences. Sector workers often observe a sense of isolation in their roles because important conversations around spirituality and diversity simply aren’t taking place in their workplaces, nor are these issues raised in other professional circles. When working in a model that has been traditionally hostile to this dimension of care, the genuine opportunity to explore ways to navigate this together is one of the resounding positives participants consistently report.

  • I really enjoyed the conversation and I look forward to joining you again. I am so grateful that there is a community of practice that is interested in this area. I think with the turbulence in the world and the workplace, that values and purpose are becoming more important, and spirituality is an important component that organisations and clinicians need to consider if we are to support person centred environments, care and services. 
  • It is a fascinating discussion. I appreciated the lived experience of the group
  • Thank you for the great session this morning. It was great to discuss an area that is not spoken about.
  • I attended the spirituality workshop today and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Pleased to see the recognition of spirituality in mental health is gaining momentum.
  • I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed yesterday’s meeting. I was reflecting on a number of issues we covered yesterday, for me, the discussions were enlightening and nourishment for my spirituality, growth and understanding.  
  • Thank you for the sessions. I’ll be more informed and understanding when I provide services to vulnerable clients with complex cultural issues when they apply for asylum protection.

The S & D Project thanks Dr Nivanka Da Silva, Psychiatric Registrar for her enthusiasm and input into the 2022 series and wish her well as she continues along her professional path.

Justin Kuay, Abie Jazi, Rohan Souter, and Jenny Greenham plan to review the evaluation data from 2022 and look forward to sharing a new S & D series in 2023.  

Jenny Greenham, 22 November 2022.