Food Bank, Adopt a Family, and Mission Australia’s Christmas Appeal, are asking us to dig deep to provide a special meal or gift to the most disadvantaged people in the community this festive season. Of course, most of us can help out in this way.
Just one of the triggers leading to such urgent need, mental illness, is also in the news. Community uneasiness about funding is alarming, and the growing need for mental health treatment even more so, considering the sometimes limited effectiveness of current treatment.
A shining example of a solution-based community initiative is the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, Sydney. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Reverend Graham Long, Pastor and CEO. He’s put together a team with backgrounds in psychology, community welfare and those with a simple love for their brothers and sisters, as they provide meals and clothes for many. They also face daily the enormity of mental illness leading to domestic violence, homelessness, grief and associated legal issues. In the past year alone 48,000 visits were made by people seeking assistance.
He feels that the one-on-one guidance of individuals in cooking, personal hygiene, computing and gardening skills is bearing dividends and opening their thought to possibilities for increased wellbeing and employment. For me, Reverend Long’s most profound insight was when he suggested that providing the necessities of life and the best medical care available will have some impact, but if the individual’s thought or consciousness of themselves and those around them is not changed, the benefits won’t be permanent.
It has long been believed that the brain is the cause of consciousness, and as such is what rules mental health. Yet, physicians and researchers are beginning to join those in the spiritual healing practices in accepting that things are not always what they appear to be. Research is finding that changes can be made in neural pathways and that mental health issues are not permanent.
A scientific study published in the Medical Journal of Australia was conducted at two community mental health centres in rural Australia. It reported the integral nature of spirituality to our mental health and wellbeing. Medics are still often surprised at the health benefits of fostering spiritual behaviours like forgiveness and gratitude. Patients are relieved and empowered.
I find that a change of thought that comes about through prayer and meditation impacts health because, as radical as it sounds, thought is the engine that essentially forms and drives the body. Einstein thought so. Wasn’t this what Jesus was also trying to get through to us? The Bible, that book loved by millions, encourages us to let his consciousness, or mind, be ours.
The Wayside Chapel and other similar initiatives like Ruah in Western Australia, as well as our Christmas giving, are crucial to meeting the needs of the disadvantaged and marginalised by society.
The suffering of so many seems sometimes disheartening, but I believe a solution is at our fingertips.
Research is pointing to the premise that mental health is found through greater spiritual awareness, and there is rising tide of support for developing an understanding of our spirituality as part of treatment.
This article is published in The Toowoomba Chronicle.