With Australia still gripped by pandemic, “understanding and support” for mental health has been identified as a nationwide priority in the 2020 Australian Catholic Bishops Conference social justice statement, the Catholic Leader reports.
“People experiencing mental ill-health are not some ‘other’ people, they are ‘us’,” ACBC president and Brisbane Archbishop, Mark Coleridge, said in the foreword to this year’s social justice statement released in the lead-up to Social Justice Sunday on August 30.
“People in our families, faith communities, workplaces and society are suffering mental ill-health – and they can be of any age or socioeconomic background. Whoever and whatever they are, they need our understanding and support.
“It is surely time for us to make mental health a real priority, so that all people may know the fullness of life which Jesus offers (John 10:10).”
The 2020 Social Justice Statement ‘To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today’ sets out to explain mental health in the clearest terms, pointing out that each of us needs the bonds of family, friends and the broader community “to celebrate the joys and hopes of life” and are important “in times of anxiety and despair”.
“Mental health can be seen as a continuum. At one end are people who are feeling well and coping with the demands of daily life. This is the case for 60 per cent of all Australians,” the statement said.
“At the other end are people experiencing mental illness.”
Common conditions include anxiety and depression, while others relate to psychosis, including schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder.
In 2018, a Church survey of 15,000 young Australians identified mental health, followed by school or study, drugs and alcohol, and body image as the main issues facing young people today.
Mental illness typically emerges in adolescence and early adulthood.
Three-quarters of people who develop ill-health first experience its symptoms before they are 25 years old.
“There is the pressure to succeed at school, to start university or find work. Lack of affordable housing, significant debt early in life, and the ‘gig economy’ can cause huge pressures,” the social justice statement said.
“This is a time in life when young people at risk can withdraw from family and friends, engage in risk-taking behaviours and form a reliance on drugs and alcohol.
“We are deeply saddened that over 3000 people are lost to suicide each year and that young people aged 15 to 24 years of age are most vulnerable.”
Suicide accounts for around one third of deaths among people in this age group, with around 90 per cent of victims experiencing mental ill-health.
SOCIAL JUSTICE STATEMENT