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Changing perceptions: talking mental health at the Wesley Centre

4 February 2019 Rev Keith Garner's Blog

Across the very diverse work of Wesley Mission one issue helps define so much of what we do: mental health.

From working with people who experience homelessness to supporting people in aged care, mental health is an ever-present subject that must be considered in service delivery. It is a prevailing factor with Wesley Mission’s financial and gambling counselling and central to our ground-breaking work at our Wesley Hospitals at Ashfield and Kogarah.

For us at Wesley Mission the telling statistic that one in five Australians will suffer from mental illness this year therefore comes as no surprise.

An estimated 45 per cent of people will deal with a mental health condition during their life and in any year, about one million Australians.

Wesley Mission’s own research has shown that around eight in ten Australians will know someone with a mental health issue.

Given my experience at Wesley Mission and the prevalence of mental health issues in our community, one of my enduring aims as CEO and Superintendent is to continue to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention, and spread the value of talking openly about mental health in our community. By doing so, I strongly believe that we will start to remove the stigma attached, allowing us to work more closely as a community to shift views and build resilience.

Wesley Mission has made a strong commitment since 1995 to provide crisis support for those through Wesley LifeForce. Created as a response to a growing number of suicides in Australia, Wesley LifeForce has trained more than 40,000 Australians in suicide prevention.MVF1718 Keiths Blog 4Feb 2000x1000It has also helped in the development and ongoing support of 93 community-based suicide prevention networks – 21 of them identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – across the nation with the number expected to reach 113 in the next few years.

It also supports more than 37,000 people in crisis each year through Lifeline Sydney & Sutherland. Lifeline began at Wesley Mission in 1963 and the movement has now spread nationally and worldwide.

As part of our continued efforts of raising awareness and as part of my role as President of the Rotary Club of Sydney, I will be hosting a major forum and event at the Wesley Centre on Saturday 23 February.

The event will focus on mental health and suicide in our community. I will be joined by renowned speaker’s Dr Andrew Rochford, former Queensland and Australian Rugby League captain Wally Lewis AM, and Christine Morgan. Together we will discuss how individuals, businesses and the community can have a greater voice, take action and lead the way to a more mature discussion on how mental health and suicide is viewed in our community.

You are welcome to join us on Saturday 23 February at Wesley Conference Centre from 9.30am – 4pm, and be a part of this interactive and truly thought-provoking convention.

Given the pervasiveness of mental health issues, the invitation is open to all - not just health and allied health professionals. All of us have a role to play in dispelling the misinformed fears surrounding mental health and in supporting those people—friends, family, workmates, classmates—who are suffering.

I look forward to you joining us in addressing an issue which is close to my heart and that of Wesley Mission.