Bishop Sproxton zeroes in on mental health in a pandemic world

29 Oct 2020

By Eric Leslie Martin

Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton presented a message on the importance of maintaining mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic, while a record number of Australians are suffering from increased levels of stress and anxiety. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Attendees joined Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton at Newman Siena Centre on Thursday 15 October for a Twilight Retreat inspired by the Social Justice Statement 2020-21: To live life to the full, Mental Health in Australia Today.

Bishop Sproxton began his presentation by highlighting how the current COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated many worldly threats – physical, social, political and economic – but also the oftentimes unseen pressure on people’s mental wellbeing, which he described as “possibly the most imperative health crisis facing western society today”.

“The loss of jobs and income from businesses, together with underemployment and insecure work, place enormous pressure on people trying to provide for themselves and their families,” he stated.

“Isolation has also been very difficult for many, and dangerous for those who are in situations of family strife and domestic violence.”

The abrupt lockdown that came with COVID-19 resulted in people nationwide suddenly isolated within their homes, unable to participate in the everyday rituals of life in the public sphere and were stripped away.

A small assembly gathered for the Twilight Retreat on Thursday 15 October, held at Newman Siena Centre, Doubleview. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Think Mental Health WA stated that “these challenges, and many more, can lead some people to feel anxious, frustrated and scared”.

“During this time of pandemic, we have often heard it said that we are all in this together,” Bishop Sproxton added.

“The quality of our care for the people who are the most vulnerable or disadvantaged will be the test of whether or not this is true.

“A commitment to the common good means attending to the good of all of us, without exception – it means paying special attention to those who are most often overlooked, side-lined or excluded,” he continued.

The Twilight Retreat was inspired by the “Social Justice Statement 2020-21: To live life to the full, Mental Health in Australia Today”. Photo: Matthew Lau.

The Mental Health Commission reports that in 2020, “one in five Western Australians will experience mental health problems and nearly half the population will experience a mental health problem at least once in their lifetime”, – with some 456,912 people prescribed mental health related medication in WA in 2018-19 (17.5 per cent of the WA population).

“Mental ill-health is not a moral failure, the result of a lack of faith or of weak will – Jesus Himself was labelled mad and, like us, He suffered psychological distress,” Bishop Sproxton emphasised.

“Now is surely a time to make mental health a priority, so that all people may know the fullness of life which Jesus offers.”

On average, some 240 Western Australians take their own lives through suicide each year, well above the average annual road toll of 191 people, with young people particularly vulnerable to developing mental health problems and/or mental illness, often combined with mis-using drugs and alcohol.