Social Justice Sunday on 30 August
To coincide with the celebration of Social Justice Sunday on 30 August, the Australian Catholic Bishops have released their Social Justice Statement for 2020-21, To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia today. This year’s statement addresses mental health and acknowledges that many people will experience a mental health issue at some stage over the course of their lives. It highlights the many challenges of daily life that impact our mental and emotional wellbeing. Social determinants including poverty, living conditions and personal security are significant contributors to mental illness. It is a timely message in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has placed added pressure on individuals and families due to financial hardship, loss of employment, along with social disconnection and isolation.
“Depression was like being in a black hole and not being able to climb out. A feeling of hopelessness. Unable to do anything, unable to drive, unable to think clearly. A terrible feeling of being alone which was different from being lonely.” Barbara – Social Justice Statement, page 5.
In Sunday’s Gospel we are invited, by Jesus, to be in solidarity with all those who suffer in our world. The Bishops ask for our parish communities to be places of acceptance, care and healing. Understanding mental health will help us to be aware of those who need our support. Mental illness remains widespread in Australia. There are calls to break down the stigma around mental health, to work for transformation of social factors that influence wellbeing and for improvements to policy and service provision, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community.
“We care because we love the people who need us, but caring takes a massive toll on our mental health! We give up plans, dreams, relationships, careers and much, much more – to give them the best life possible. We become isolated from our friends, relatives and co-workers because our lives are ‘different’ and no longer ‘fit in’ to mainstream, ‘normal’ society. I am one such carer. I care for my son who I love dearly but I spend my days ‘on edge’.” Amy – Social Justice Statement, page 11.
The past few weeks have seen a focus on a renewed social justice platform across the Parishes of Camberwell, Balwyn, Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park. In the recent Social Justice Series, Sr Angela Reed led us through a process of reflecting on our experience of COVID-19 to clarify where we stand now, in light of our faith, and to what we are called in the future. The newly formed Social Justice Network gathered on Thursday evening via Zoom. Fr Brendan Reed continued the process with a group of 20 parishioners, discerning pathways to action which will enable us to both express our lived experiences and our faith. Stay tuned as the Social Justice Network moves forward!
“When I took that really, really difficult step, that really heartbreaking step of trying to ask for help, there was really nothing there for me. I was kind of greeted with silence in return. So, that’s just really distressing … it makes you feel very hopeless and like you’re really never gonna get better.” Amelia – Social Justice Statement, page 11.
For the Social Justice Statement and other resources, visit the Catholic Bishops Conference website.