For many, our early introduction to life's journey is full of warm hugs, kisses, smiles, gifts and consistent positive reinforcement of good behaviour. As we grow, opportunities for a broad education and rich family life nurture the confidence to reach out to friends and the wider community. The family unit is the backbone of all societies. Government support for families needs to be at the heart of policy and legislation, and can never be linked to a single political ideology.
We have a right to all life's basic necessities, including availability of health services, healthy and safe working conditions, adequate housing and nutritious food in accord with World Health Organisation (WHO) principles. But there's an essential element to our health that's often overlooked - and the WHO has recognised that element as spirituality.
Healthy family members are not only physically strong. They are mentally and spiritually buoyant. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, spirituality was associated with better mental health. According to study co-author Dan Cohen, spirituality could help an individual's mental health by lowering their self-centeredness and developing their sense of belonging to a larger whole.
Cohen also believes that the selflessness that comes with spirituality enhances characteristics which are important for fostering a global society which is based on the virtues of peace and cooperation.
The University of Maryland Medical Center has written that "concepts of spirituality include a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself, a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures, and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values".
The health community is beginning to acknowledge that whole-person or holistic health care has the best results, and strikingly so in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and among young refugees. Holistic care includes taking into account the spirituality and social and emotional wellbeing of the individual within the whole community.
Thinking of our deep need for affection, a new survey by SANE Australia found that loneliness is a widespread problem for people with mental illness – just when they need companionship more than ever. Some haven't had physical contact with another human being – even just a hug – for at least 12 months. Nearly half of those suffering mental illness have no close relationship at all.
Suicide or suicidal thoughts do not indicate an inherited weakness or illness, but are often a response to trauma or tragedy. Nor are suicide or suicidal thoughts ever a 'divine curse'. It's ridiculous that society ever criticised or shunned a family which has been dealing with suicide, or that a family feels a social stigma.
Sock it to Suicide Week15-19 October includes an opportunity to raise awareness and support to establish Safehaven Centres for those who want a 'place of safety' at times when trauma leads to relationship breakdowns, physical abuse or bullying.
Many personal stories about suicide have been told in a lead-up to this week. Editor of the Sunday Territorian, Kylie Stevenson, bares all by telling her own story. "If suicide were less taboo, people with thoughts of it would feel more comfortable confiding in someone. They'd know where to go for help. They'd be presented with much better options." A poignant story in the light of reports of a high rate of suicide for both Indigenous people and farmers living in isolated communities.
A colleague relates that there was a time in her life when she attempted suicide, then spent some portion of every day for about two years wanting to die and trying to figure out how to do it. Years later, as she began to learn more about her spiritual being she had an 'aha' moment. It became clear to her that every moment of life is worth living because it's eternal. These were ideas she'd been reading in the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. Every aspect of her life was now pretty good.
She had the opportunity to put these ideas into practice when the aggressive, deadly suggestion that she wanted to kill herself surfaced again. After the initial horror, she just burst out laughing. She knew she didn't want to die, knew she loved life and that she'd never actually die, because life is eternal. She then understood clearly that the thought of suicide was an aggressive suggestion in her thoughts, and that the spell of dark thoughts can be broken with one simple right idea.
It's horrifying to learn that during a four year period Toowoomba district had the largest rate of youth suicide in Queensland. During thisSock it to Suicide week, which precedes Family Weekin Toowoomba, we're thankful for the current work of community and government groups across Australian communities, as well as the development of new strategies and funding to develop communities further and help families to achieve financial and educational parity.
However, it seems that the inclusion of a spiritual approach to mental healthcare would be certain to nurture more healthy families and individuals and increase individual participation within the community. It's very likely it will also improve suicide statistics.