mental illness

Religion and/or Spirituality on our Mental Health – A Conversation We Must Have!

“I prayed my anxiety away many times ” Sharon Orapeleng

“I prayed my anxiety away many times” Sharon Orapeleng

It is estimated that almost half (45%) of the Australian population will experience a mental disorder at some time in their lifetime (about 8.7 million people based on the estimated 2017 population). An extract from Our World Data estimates estimates that globally around 970 million people were living with a mental health or substance-use disorder in 2017. There is no denying that mental health issues are one of the biggest challenges in our world today. As a society - as we have more and more public conversations around this issue; and the traditional stigma associated with mental health slowly but surely fades away; it is perhaps likely that we have in fact underestimated just how many of us are impacted in some way by mental health challenges.

 Over the last ten years; as well as working in the Queensland mental health system; I have also been proactively raising general community and workplace awareness and understanding of mental health issues through the delivery of several mental health literacy courses including Mental Health First Aid. Lately I have been reflecting on this journey, trying to find the missing link in the narrative. That missing link in the conversation I believe, is the interrelation of religion and/or spirituality with our mental health and how we can harness this resource to positively influence our mental health and emotional wellbeing.

In 2014 after a very traumatic car accident, I was diagnosed with anxiety. As I navigated the system to get help and support for myself, I remember having a conversation with my mother about my diagnosis and she said something to me in Setswana (my mother language); that she often said whenever things were tough; and that is “Modimo o teng”  - which is translated in English as “God is there”. This is a phrase my mother used to bring me comfort, meaning and hope to soften any struggles of life.

Religion and/or spirituality is an important source of strength for many people who experience life challenges including mental health issues.

The 2016 Australian Census indicated that Christian religion affiliations were reported by 52% of the population. Non-Christian religions represented about 8% of the population. The 2016 Australian census also recorded that the combined number of people who self-identified as Muslim in Australia, from all forms of Islam, constituted 2.6% of the total Australian population. About 39% of the population stated they had no religion or did not state their religion. 

Religion or faith-based affiliation is a significant expression for more than 60% of Australians, therefore a conversation about religion and/or spirituality and its associated outcomes for mental health is overdue. Religion and/or spirituality provides an individual with a sense of connection to something bigger than self and how one fits in with the world. It also creates a sense of community and connectedness, and most importantly gives the individual a sense of purpose and hope. All of these are protective factors for mental health and have positive impacts on the individual’s wellbeing.

Although there are many documented positive impacts of religion and/or spirituality on the overall health and wellbeing of an individual, there is no denying that the religion and/spirituality is expressed differently depending on the individual belief system which is influenced by many factors including cultural factors. This differing belief system can also be detrimental to people’s own health and wellbeing.  For example, people who believe that prayer and/or meditation alone will cure their mental health issues are not likely to present voluntarily at a mental health service for care and support. Some individuals would choose different forms of spiritual cleansing such as exorcism over cognitive behaviour therapy and other evidence-based therapies any day.

There is also an increasing stigmatisation of mental health issues in the faith-based communities including the believe that mental illness is caused by lack of prayer and faith or sin; sometimes it is the believe that the evil spirit has influence on the individual experiencing a mental health crisis. This belief system is likely to lead to people being disconnected from communities of support and service providers resulting in a decline in people’s mental health.

Religion and/or spiritual interventions and mental health care and support are not supposed to be mutually exclusive but must interface and align to enable the flourishing of the whole of the person and challenge understanding on perceptions of mental health issues.

My belief is that as long as the mental health sector; and the messaging around mental health and suicide prevention miss this; I fear many people will simply choose to continue to just “pray about it” rather than a combination of prayer or meditation and professional mental health care. Similarly, in cases of individuals faced with severe illnesses such as cancer; this can be observed in evidence of increased mortality where individuals embrace alternative therapies at the exclusion of conventional medicine when often the best outcomes are seen by those who incorporate both in combination.

There is no doubt that religion and/or spirituality forms a part of the individual’s core understanding of the world they live in and how they interact with it and others. Most poignant on this is the application of religion and or/spirituality as a coping mechanism for people from ethnic communities which bring enormous implications in relation to explanatory models of mental health issues, service access and treatment.

If you were to ask me about the impact of my faith in my recovery journey from anxiety – I will tell you that “I was spurred on by my mother’s favourite phrase of ‘Modimo o teng’ – and yes I prayed my anxiety away many times, but I also saw my doctor, had a mental health care plan, took medication, saw a psychologist and did many other things to keep me well and still do”

Mental Health is such a challenging issue, we must identify and utilise every possible tool at our disposal in a collaborative sense so that no one is left behind, no one feels isolated and no one ever feels the need to choose faith and/or spirituality over professional mental health care and support. As unlikely bedfellows as it seems, they are not meant to be mutually exclusive.

Upcoming Community Conversations
If you are interested to be part of discussions on this topic – Sharon Orapeleng will be hosting a series of community conversations on Religion and/or Spirituality and Mental Health in Brisbane from September 2019. If you are interested to know more details please send email to sharon@psychedsolutions.com.au or check the website on www.psychedsolutions.com.au for further updates.

Follow Sharon Orapeleng on social media Twitter- @
sharonora  Facebook -  @SharonOrapeleng  Linkedin @SharonOrapeleng

If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines or visit your local GP.
Lifeline Australia                           13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service           1300 659 467
Kids Helpline                                   1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia                        1300 78 99 78
Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636

 

Lending a helping hand during mental health distress through Mental Health First Aid

Mental health pain is as real as any physical pain to any part of the body. However, unlike physical pain where sometimes the injury is visible or physically and behaviourally expressed, mental health pain can be a very hidden, isolating, deep dark pain that may seem to have no end. Whether it is physical pain or mental health pain both require some sort of intervention to ease the pain or stop the pain and without intervention it can lead to a crisis situation. The importance of knowing what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who to call for support can be a matter of life and death.

Mental health issues are more common than you think. One in five of us will experience a common mental health illness such as depression, anxiety or alcohol and other drug misuse in each year. This means someone in your close friend circle, work mate, family, community, or even yourself may suffer the impact of mental health illness at some point in your life.

Just like physical first aid and CPR, mental health first aid is a life skill, the course teaches you to identify the early signs of developing mental health issues and to know of local mental health services and support systems available as well as ability to respond effectively during a mental health crisis situation; such as someone experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours; until professional help is accessed.

For Sharon Orapeleng, a mental health professional and Director of Psyched Solutions with accreditation to deliver the mental health first aid course, this issue is personal. “

“Mental health issues are the reality of many Australians every day and helping to create awareness around the impact of these issues is something I am very passionate about, because it can save a life” she said.

Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety a few years ago Sharon knows first-hand the debilitating impact of mental illness and how early intervention can help save a life.

“As a mental health professional working in the mental health system, and wearing many hats as a mother, wife, community leader, advocate and consultant; I was the one who always helped anyone who needed help, always doing for others; and when a car accident turned my life around, no one outside my immediate family noticed I was struggling, no-one noticed I needed help” She said.

“It was easier to talk about the physical pain, the back surgery, the struggle to walk, the physical healing but the emotional pain remained and until I received the help needed.”

“You never know what is around the corner, your life can change in a second and knowing what to do, how to help yourself or lend a helping hand to another person during the struggle with mental health issues is critical.”

Sharon has been delivering mental health first aid course for over five years to the public, government and non-government organisations such as Australian Red Cross and many others. In 2016 she teamed up with Brisbane rugby community through the newly formed organisation “Rugby Unite” to raise mental awareness in the community of rugby as their Mental Health First Aid Course Instructor.

“The aim of the Rugby Unite organisation in partnership with Mental Awareness Foundation is to have every rugby club in Queensland to have a trained Metal Health First Aid Officer including players, coaches, referees and club members, to create a supportive community that allows for mental health issues to be talked about and help people access much needed help” Sharon said.

To register for Sharon’s upcoming accredited Mental Health First Aid Course on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July 2017 in Ashgrove, Brisbane contact Sharon at Psyched Solutions, www.psychedsolutions.com.au or call 0411 330 382. Direct link for booking is here

To learn more about Mental Health First Aid go to www.mhfa.com.au

Mental Health First Aid for the Suicidal Person - A new short Course!

The international theme for World Mental Health Day in 2016 is: Dignity in Mental Health - Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All: http://wfmh.com/world-mental-health-day/

To tie in with the World Mental Health Day, Mental Health First Aid launched a new course 'MHFA for the Suicidal Person' a half day (4hrs) stand alone face-to-face MHFA course which teaches participants how to apply suicide first aid skills to save a life.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released data on suicide deaths in Australia. In 2015, over 3,000 people died by suicide, that equates to around 8 people who tragically take their own live in Australia every single day. 
These statistics on suicide are incredibly sobering and highlights the need to break down stigma attached to this taboo subject. Suicide and thoughts of suicide is a reality for many people every single day.
We are pleased to be able to offer this short course on 'MHFA for the Suicidal Person' which allows us to focus the attention on this topic and teach people how to provide first aid skills to anyone with suicidal thoughts and behaviors and support the person to access professional help.

Having a conversation about Suicide breaks down the stigma and saves life!

Contact us to arrange for the 4hrs - MHFA for the Suicidal Person course for your organisation or community.

If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines
Lifeline Australia                         13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service           1300 659 467
Kids Helpline                               1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia                    1300 78 99 78
 
Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636
 Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) - 131 450

Have a great Mental Health Week!
Sharon Orapeleng, Director and Trainer
Psyched Solutions

Suicide: Dispelling the Myths and Changing the Conversation!

Warning: This blog contains material about suicide which may be triggering to some readers.

“Suicide” is one of the last remaining taboo topics in an age when nothing no longer seem off limits. Not many want to openly talk about it ‘just in case it may put thoughts of suicide in people’s mind’ they may say. However the reality is that suicide touches the lives of many people and has devastating impact on family, friends, colleagues and community. Many people take their own lives every day in Australia and around the world. In 2013, about 6 people died by suicide every day around Australia, that is around 2,500 people who took their own lives. Approximately 75% of those who died by suicide were males and 25% females in 2013. Women are however 4 times more likely to attempt suicide with hospital data for the 2008-2009 financial year indicating that 62% of those who were hospitalised due to self-harm were women.

These statistics are incredibly sobering and highlights the need to break down stigma attached to this taboo subject. Suicide and suicidal ideation is a reality for many people every single day. Just recently on social media (Facebook) I have been witnessing a number of viral posts about suicide, one of them that struck the cord with me is this one below;

“Many people think that a suicide attempt is a selfish move because the person just does not care about the people left behind. I can tell you that when a person gets to that point, they truly believe that their loved ones will be much better off with them gone. This is mental illness not selfishness. TRUTH: Depression is a terrible disease and seems relentless. A lot of us have been close to that edge, or dealt with family members in a crisis, and some have lost friends and loved ones. Let's look out for each other and stop sweeping mental illness under the rug. If I don't see your name, I'll understand. May I ask my family and friends wherever you might be, to kindly copy and paste this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Hope to see this on the walls of all my family and friends just for moral support. I know some will!!! I did it for a friend and you can too. You have to copy and paste this one, no sharing. Thank you” (Author Unknown)

I have seen many friends sharing this above statement on their walls.  This highlights the power of social media in breaking down the walls on these sensitive topics such as suicide and mental illness. A very welcomed change! However there are still a number of myths associated with suicide and the discussion around it can quickly get hijacked by those who are misinformed about the topic which can have devastating impact on those bereaved by suicide. The viral post above touches on one of the most common myths associated with suicide which labels victim of suicide as “selfish, not caring etc.” This labeling of the person who has died by suicide as selfish or not caring fails to take to account the fact that research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression, with 90% of the people who die by suicide having an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death.

There are many more myths about suicide, here are some of the most common:

Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t actually do it

Fact: Many people who complete the act of suicide spend considerable time prior to the act, talking about it

Myth: Asking a person who is suicidal whether they are thinking of taking their own life will make them do it

Fact:  By giving the  person who is suicidal permission to discuss their feelings, is often the best opportunity to make them aware that somebody cares about their life and give them hope for life.

Myth: Only certain types of people commit suicide

Fact: Suicidal thoughts and actions can affect anyone from any socio-economic group, religious or racial background or age

Myth: Suicidal people want to die

Fact:   People who are suicidal just want to end the intense emotional and/or physical pain they are experiencing

 This clearly highlights the need for more public awareness about suicide. We need to have the capacity to identify signs of symptoms of a developing mental health issue such as depression and be able to respond to a crisis situation such as someone thinking of suicide. How do you appropriately provide support needed for someone who finds the courage to tell you that they are thinking of taking their own life? How do you give someone hope for life who life has ran them into a rut and they see taking their own lives as the only way to make the hurt stop? How do you support those who are left bereaved by suicide?

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is important to talk about it so we can understand how to prevent it.

Join us at our next Mental Health First Training on the 6th – 7th November, 2015 in Brisbane as we discuss about what you can do to support someone in a crisis situation such as having suicidal thoughts and behaviours as well as understand the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and what you can do to help. Help us break the stigma associated with mental health illness so we are able to help ourselves, families, colleagues and community.

This could be one of the most important decisions you may ever undertake, to learn an important life skill that will not only help you, but more importantly someone in need close to you.

Book here

I look forward to seeing you at the training!

 

If this topic has caused any concerns for you or someone you know, please call the following helplines

Lifeline Australia                         13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service           1300 659 467

Kids Helpline                               1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia                    1300 78 99 78

 

Looking for support and advice, call beyond blue - 1300 22 4636

 

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) - 131 450

Changing Perceptions and Removing the Stigma about Mental Illness

Mental health issues are among the leading causes of disability across the globe. Many people do not associate mental illness with disability however moderate to severe mental health issues can be as disabling as physical disability. Mental health issues do not discriminate, anyone can develop mental illness at some point in their lives. In Australia 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with a common mental health issue in any given year. The risk factors are wide and varied. The stigma associated with mental illness and the negative and discriminatory attitudes can have devastating impact on the person struggling with the illness. Community awareness about mental health issues is very important to help change perceptions and remove the stigma.

This week (04-10 October, 2015) is the National Mental Health Week held to coincide with World Mental Health Day on 10 October, 2015. These national events are an opportunity to create awareness around mental health and well being and equip people with the right information.

Connect with you local mental health organisations to participate in a number of events planned for this week.

Media is  important in changing perceptions and removing stigma about mental illness. Watch out for ABC TV and radio's Mental As programs during this national mental health week. From comedy, to documentaries, Q and A, and entertainment, ABC is leading to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness and start the conversation. Find out more here.

Mental Health Australia  is running a campaign aimed at acknowledging your role in looking after your own mental health and well being. The 'Mental Health Begins With Me' campaign is about making a mental health promise to yourself then sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues. Visit campaign website here to make your mental health promise.

Lets join together and change perceptions around mental health issues and urge services to appropriately and effectively support people with mental health issues.

If you live in Australia and are you need someone to talk to - call one of the following numbers:

Lifeline - 131 114           beyondblue - 1300 22 4636  Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800

Suicide Call Back Service -1300 659 467

Translating and Interpretation Service (TIS National) - 131 450