Mental Health Week Forum – Informing, understanding, empowering

beyondblue contends that in Australia, an estimated 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition.

Mental Health Week Forum – Informing, understanding, empowering

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that by 2030 mental illness will be the second biggest disease burden in the developed world, after heart disease. Yet, mental health continues to be stigmatised and underfunded.


PICTURED: Guest speakers Owen Craigie, Tanya Russell, Liz Newton and Dr Roger Peters.



The Diocesan Social Justice Council and CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning hosted a Mental Health Forum last week to open the doors of understanding and acceptance during Mental Health Week.


A panel of expert speakers spoke passionately about mental health and gave the audience an insight into the prevalence, impact and consequences of mental illness.


Director of HEAS Consultant and Clinical Psychologists, Dr Roger Peters , spoke in some depth about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People suffering from PTSD are “neurobiologically driven to survive”, their trauma often causing an estrangement from others, hyper-vigilance, alcoholism and intense anxiety. Roger stressed the importance of early intervention and suggested that treatment is about teaching people ways to manage their anxieties.


Consumer Consultant with Hunter New England Health, Liz Newton, gave an incredibly moving account of her own mental illness – a major depressive disorder. She related how her environment (even in utero) and genes set her up with major vulnerability to mental health problems, mostly stemming from her violent and emotionally abusive father. She describes her illness as causing her, “crushing, lonely, isolating sadness” and whilst she now uses medication to help, she still has at least one major depressive episode every year, which can last up to three months. She is a passionate advocate for a mentally healthy workplace that actively works to raise awareness of mental health issues and reduce the stigma.


Former Newcastle Knights premiership player, Owen Craigie, spoke about the mental health issues faced by our Indigenous community. He spoke about the generational impact of trauma on the lives of Aboriginal children and how stories of the stolen generation, the Myall Creek Massacre and abuse that occurred on missions contribute to this trauma. The statistics for Indigenous Australians are truly horrifying (life expectancy – 50 years) with Owen relating, “I set myself a goal of making it until I was at least 20 years old.” He related his own battle with depression and anxiety and how he turned to alcohol, drugs and gambling. He sought help and now works as a Mission Australia gambling counsellor, spending his days supporting people in breaking their gambling addiction.


Registered psychologist and team leader of CatholicCare’s Counselling Team, Tanya Russell, concluded the forum with a session on mindfulness. Tanya uses mindfulness activities to help clients stay in the moment and avoid anxiety over things they cannot control. “Mindfulness allows us to slow down and see things as they are. It’s about stopping and noticing the here and now and appreciating your everyday experiences,” Tanya said.


Article courtesy of Joanne Isaac.


To find out more about mental health visit beyondblue. To speak to a counsellor, contact CatholicCare Social Services on 4979 1172 or visit



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