2020 SOCIAL JUSTICE STATEMENT: Bishops call for attention on mental health

06 Aug 2020

By Theresia Titus

Social Justice Statement 2020-2021 released by the ACBC, titled “To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today”. Photo: ACBC.

By Theresia Titus

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ACBC) has this week encouraged parishes and local communities to make the critical subject of mental health in Australia a top priority in its Social Justice Statement 2020-2021.

Titled To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia today, the statement takes Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of John 10:10 as its scriptural foundation.

Released in the lead-up to Social Justice Sunday which is on 30 August, the statement promotes the fullness of life for all, including those experiencing mental ill-health by rejecting stigmatisation and working towards the transformation of social determinants of mental ill-health.

The bishops also call for policies to meet the needs of those who are poor and marginalised, recognising the face of Christ in them.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Photo: ACBC.

In his foreword for the statement, ACBC President and Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge stated that the COVID-19 pandemic brought stress and pressures to the mental health of many Australians.

“COVID-19 pandemic is a threat in many ways – physical, social, political, and economic. But it is also putting pressure on the mental health of many people in ways both seen and unseen,” he wrote.

“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.

“Isolation has also been challenging for many and may even be dangerous for those who are in situations of family strife and domestic violence,” he continued.

Archbishop Coleridge also acknowledged that many people would probably experience mental ill-health at some points in their life and now might well be the time considering the pandemic Australians are facing. 

“During this time of the pandemic, we have often heard it said that ‘we are all in this together’. 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,” Archbishop Coleridge wrote.

“A commitment to the common good means attending to the good of all of us, without exception. It means paying special attention to those overlooked, side-lined or excluded. 

The statement also highlighted the cost of mental ill-health in Australia, stating that it is “far more than economic” and “will increase as Australia responds to the pandemic”.

“It is felt in the stigma and discrimination experienced by the most vulnerable – being labelled, shunned, denied support, or not even being recognised – which denies a person of their human dignity and right to live life to the full. It is a rejection of the gifts that they have to offer and their membership in the Body of Christ.”

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady, Bishop Delegate for Social Justice on the Bishops Commission for Social Justice Mission and Service. Photo: ACBC.

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady, Bishop Delegate for Social Justice on the Bishops Commission for Social Justice Mission and Service, has called on all Catholics to take up the message and challenges of the statement.

“This is a timely message in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is affecting many members of our parishes, schools and communities,” Bishop Brady stated.

“The personal feelings of anxiety and despair we all share at this time provide an opportunity to become more aware and active in fostering the mental health of all. “Understanding mental health will help us to be aware of those who most need our support.”

The statement also calls for the nation’s commitment to addressing those policies that exacerbate the already precarious circumstances of First Australians and refugees and asylum-seekers.

“Our society tends to push away or draw away from those who confront us with our frailties and limitations,


is not the way of Jesus,” Bishop Brady said.

“Let us follow him in drawing near to those who are experiencing mental ill-health and acknowledge that they are members of the Body of Christ – ‘they’ are part of ‘us’. Only then can we say: ‘we are all in this together’. Only then can we ‘live life to the full’.

“I commend this Statement to every parish, school and Church network and invite you to promote it as widely as possible,” Bishop Brady continued.

The Perth launch of the Social Justice statement 2020-2021 will be held on Thursday 20 August.

To download the Social Justice Statement 2020-2021, “To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia today”, click here: http://bit.ly/SocialJustice_2020