Religions for Peace Australia has produced a series of video outlining issues around Covid 19 and multifaith matters. In this video, Rev. Chris Parnell, Interfaith Minister, gives an overview of mental health issues, faith and spirituality addressing mental health and references a simple strategy and further resources for mental health.
In this session, we are going to talk about the challenges of Covid 19, Mental Health, and the aid that Religion and Spirituality can give us at this time. We will also look to one strategy for self-help, and share with you two organisations that help those experiencing anxiety and stress at this time. These organisations do help people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and have both language and translation support available. So that will be good for many who do not have strong English language skill.
As we begin, we acknowledge the traditional owners of the country we are speaking on – here, it is the Yorta Yorta country and we pay respects to their elders past and present.
The Spread of Anxiety
We acknowledge that this time of lockdown, this time of Covid-19 spreading, this time of getting tested and going for the vaccination is a time of anxiety, a time of challenges, a stressful time for many – especially those who cannot go to work, especially those who will lose income – their monies earned. We acknowledge that families will also experience stress, with children home from school, and the challenges of home-schooling, and working from home as well. It is not an easy balancing task. And for many people, there will be no support.
This is the video we have made for all of you needing support.
- social isolation
- social distancing
- wearing a mask
- children not able to go to school
- people who cannot go to work
- people who will not earn enough money to pay their bills
- All this is stressful
- All this is anxiety, worry
- stress is normal
- we have to turn the tap off, when the stress bucket is too full
- and allow all the pressures that have built up within to drain out.
Religion and Spirituality
Religion is an organised set of beliefs
with an organised community who come together to worship in common
which gives spiritual health to its adherents and worshippers.
Religion has a very positive function in our society:
- it builds bonds
- it supports needy people with welfare
- it gives people a meaning, a purpose, a goal to aspire to at the end of life
Spirituality, on the other hand, is a way of life
Spirituality – in some respects – is a matter of inner reflection. We reflect on our life’s experiences, and we take that word understanding and turn it around. That is, we take a particular experience, we stand under it, allow it to shed its light on us, and then we decide whether or not this choice, this action, this outcome – furthers our journey in life to peace, to truth, to love, to non-violence and to the arms of love. We build our own stock of wisdom and understanding.
The practice of Religion and spirituality leads to positive mental health outcomes.
Religion encourages social connectedness, compassion towards others, provides a sense of purpose and meaning in life and framework for making sense of the world. When we come back to our spiritual home, we come back to spiritual health. Let’s look at some spiritual healthful practices:
Buddhism practices mindfulness, slowing down, taking deep breaths and coming to awareness of the mind. Over time, the mind becomes still.
Hinduism practices chanting the OM: slow, deep chanting of OM 9, 11, or 21 times can bring people to a deep peace.
Christianity has the rosary. Holding the rosary beads, simple prayer that is repeated a set number of times focuses the mind on hope, peace and divine grace.
Many religions teach that simple repeating the name of God brings interior calm, peace and restfulness. Take time, find a place, relax and prepare yourself. One may chant the name of God (or one’s Saint or deity) softly or silently. Another way to come to inner peace and rest is to follow the ancient Greek spiritual practice of chanting the name on the breath.
This can be “Lord have mercy”, Kyrie Elesion, Om Namah Shivaya, Jesus, any of the different names and forms of the Divine are suitable for this prayer. You can also breathe a phrase of love for God, a simple mantra of your own of adoration, praise, worship. All this can be done on the breath.
Self Help Strategies
If you’re in Victoria, it’s understandable if you are feeling upset, anxious or frustrated by news of another lockdown.
People can expect to feel all these emotions, along with fatigue and exhaustion.
“You also might have a shorter fuse or feel more irritable”
When Covid 19 measures force us to retreat to our homes, it’s important to be mindful of the impacts of uncertainty and isolation.
Here are some strategies to help you manage your mental health in lockdown.
Focus on what you can control
When it’s unclear what will happen tomorrow or the next day, and plans are thrown into chaos, it can be very unsettling.
This uncertainty can have big impacts on our mental health.
“We talk about focusing on the things you can control, and not on the things you can’t,” she says.
“In your environment, you can find little things you can control.
You can take steps like managing your hygiene, wearing masks, even reaching out and connecting to people.”
One simple method which many people have found helpful is called FACE
It involves four practical steps that can help you manage uncertainty and anxiety during difficult times.
- F – Focus on what’s in your control.
- A – Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
- C – Come back into your body (exercise, stretches or breathing exercises can all help).
- E – Engage in what you’re doing.
One useful technique is box breathing, which involves taking slow, deep breaths. It can be done several times throughout the day and can help calm nerves and relieve stress.
Take breaks from news and technology
While it’s important to be aware of what’s going on, it helps to give yourself a break from distressing news and social media feeds.
“The problem is when you’re getting caught up in news or social media, and it’s eating up your time and it’s doing more harm than good,”
It can help to focus on “conscious and active” use of social media and news, rather than using it as a distraction.
“If it’s not helping, think about times when you can switch off the phone, or when you can check in with the news rather than being constantly connected,” he says.
If you can, avoid screen time in the hours leading up to bedtime.
“It can really harm sleeping patterns, and disrupted sleep patterns have a massive flow-on effect for our overall wellbeing,”
“For some people, the bombardment of news reports may also be overwhelming or distressing”
“If that’s the case, limit your media exposure and stick to trusted sources of information.”
Remember you’re not alone
One of the most important things for our mental health is to feel connected to those around us.
While lockdowns may add a physical barrier to our relationships, it’s important we keep reaching out to friends, family and other loved ones
For those with loved ones in Victoria, be considerate, offer support and most importantly listen.
It is helpful to think back to what worked – and what didn’t – in previous lockdowns.
“We’ve proved that we are highly adaptable.
We managed to connect in different ways,
It’s about reminding ourselves of what we used to do,” she says.
If you’re struggling, support is available
The Mental Health Foundation Australia (MHFA) runs free, non – judgemental peer to peer mental health support groups.
Multicultural support groups are run for African Women, Indian Women, and Multicultural Youth.
go to mhfa.org.au/ and click on the link to support group. On that page, you can join a support group.
HeartChat pairs people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Australia with mental health professionals relevant to them.
Mental Health Services for Multicultural Communities – Heartchat can speak your language and understand your culture
HeartChat matches people from culturally diverse backgrounds and different faiths with a mental health professional who speaks the language, knows the faith and can help you. Visit https://heartchat.com.au
Partners in Wellbeing
The Partners in Wellbeing Program will provide specialist psychosocial and wellbeing supports across Victoria via telephone and video technology to people with experiencing poor psychosocial health and mental-ill health in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The wellbeing coaching and practical supports delivered through this program will assist people experiencing psychosocial distress and mental ill health due to the COVID-19 physical distancing and isolation measures, including those who are required to self-isolate for whatever reason. This includes people with lived experience of mental illness, as well as those experiencing poor psychosocial health for the first time due to the impacts of COVID-19. The initiative will also support carers in the context of their own psychosocial health and the caring role, acknowledging the negative and fatiguing impacts of COVID-19 on carers wellbeing and resilience.
The target group for the Partners In Wellbeing program is Victorians 16 or over who are:
- experiencing increased life stressors and their usual coping strategies are not working
- noticing signs of anxiety and/or depression that have lasted more than a few weeks, such as:
- low mood i.e. feeling down
- feeling overwhelmed and unsafe
- low energy
- feelings of hopelessness, fear, nervousness or worrying
- avoidance of social situations
- thoughts of self-harm or harm to others.
- and not currently receiving a Commonwealth or state funded community mental health psychosocial support service, including the disability support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Note: This is a voluntary service and diagnosis of mental illness is not an eligibility requirement.
*Priority will be given people at high risk of relapse in their mental health condition or psychological state to prevent avoidable relapse, ED presentations and hospital admission and/or risk of self-harm or suicide.
We are now open for referrals so please get in touch via the following contact methods:
Central Phone Number: 1300 375 330
Metropolitan Melbourne – North, West, Inner, South
Metropolitan Melbourne – South-Eastern, East
Bridging, Bonding, Believing, Behaving
Bridging, Bonding, Believing, Behaving:
Religion encourages social connectedness,
compassion towards others, provides a sense of purpose and meaning in life
gives a framework for making sense of the world.
When we come back to our spiritual home, we come back to spiritual health.
Spirituality is our connection within,
Spirituality is our connection with the world around us, the Earth, the environment, the beauty of life in its many situations
Spirituality is our standing under the experience and so coming to understanding
Spirituality is our stock of inner experience and wisdom
Spirituality is our way to truth, love, peace, right conduct and non-violence.
Spirituality is the heart-to-heart connection with other people.
Modern life and the challenges of Covid-19 can affect our mental health. We are always in charge of our minds, and we can always take time for ourselves, switch off from technology and social media and give ourselves some rest from the stress of Coronavirus, and lockdown.
There are many organisations that can help us. Partners in Wellbeing especially helps those from culturally diverse backgrounds. It also has language and translation services.
The Mental Health Foundation of Australia offers free online support forums for many people, including people from different cultures. This is non-judgemental support where you can talk and receive guidance.
You can go to mhfa.org.au/ and click on the link to support group. On that page, you can join a support group.
Take whatever steps you need – to be peaceful at this time.