THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Wellness is a state of mind and body that everyone aspires to, for themselves, for their loved ones, for their community. But what exactly is it? Maybe we have a semi-formed notion, an ideal of robust physicality, of satisfying mental acuity, of a wellspring of emotional resilience. If only! At any given time any of us can certainly experience any or all of these, but at others we may need extra help to boost our equilibrium, to feel that life and our world are good and we are doing well in our own special place in both. America’s National Wellness Institute says, “Although there might be different views on what wellness encompasses … there appears to be general agreement that wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment … and that it is positive and affirming.” Sue Sagewood, Director of West Winds Community Centre, and her team are keen to see people who live in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel enjoy wellness in all its aspects. They saw a need for an overall plan to achieve this goal and consequently formed a steering committee, Channel of Wellness (C.O.W.). They’ve produced a survey to discover who needs support, what sort of support, how best to provide support, where the best resources are, and how to introduce more of what’s needed.
Away from the mainstream
Lifeline says, “Living and working in regional, rural or remote Australia can be a very rewarding and challenging way of life. People living in regional, rural and remote areas are known for being down-to-earth, practical and resilient. But, living away from metropolitan areas can be difficult and it’s important to ask for help during tough times.” Lifeline says a lack of local social and professional services and the fact that people need to travel to access them are part of this problem. And when you’re out of the metropolitan areas it’s also difficult to know where to look for them, and when you do find them they can be expensive. So when the National Wellness Institute says, “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence”, we who live in regional areas would respond that these choices are not ones we can make easily, much as we might want to. Beyond Blue says of the benefits of general wellness, “Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with increased learning, creativity and productivity, more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, and with improved physical health and life expectancy.” However, if levels of mental health fall, says Beyond Blue, “they can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death from suicide.” Not only individuals and families are affected. In rural and regional neighbourhoods, especially, the ripple effect ensures repercussions for the whole community.
Taking the survey
“I would like to invite you to participate in the Channel of Wellness survey so that your views and experiences can be included,” says Sue Sagewood. “West Winds Community Centre is working with key members of the community to develop the plan, but they need your input to make sure that it works for our community.” The West Winds survey needs to be completed by May 31st. Find it online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VRV9TQN, or in the West Winds newsletter; or phone 6267 4713 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s optional and anonymous and will take five to fifteen minutes to complete. Sue Sagewood hopes that as well as providing answers for the C.O.W. team it will raise awareness in the community and encourage people to reach out. It will ask questions about your current methods for ‘self-care’: walking, craft, meditation, for example. To whom would you go with your problems? How do you rate your overall wellness? If you needed services, what problems would you encounter, and, most important, what services would you like to see established in
Making the survey work
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “not just the absence of mental disorder [but] a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” After attending mental health awareness training in the UK, blogger Taryn Ozorio wrote, “That’s a pretty tall order. Who defines what the normal stresses are anyway? Daily life would be more accurate. I would also hope that work includes more than just your job – hobbies, passions, chores, etc.” Her comments show what a complex area this is. West Winds is at the heart of our community and already provides many services. But they want to get it right, and get it better. We help ourselves, our neighbours and our community by completing the survey so why not give it a go?
What is Country?
Have you attended an official event where there has been a short speech at the beginning, usually saying something like: “We offer our respects to the original inhabitants of this land...”? In the course of a busy event or meeting, the importance of these words can be overlooked. Sometimes the introduction is rushed, and doesn’t always seem sincere. Not so, at an inspiring talk at the Hobart Town Hall, the latest in the series 'Conversations @ Mac Point for Reconciliation'. On 18th April I was privileged to listen to Ruth Langford, creative director of Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival, who presented an inspiring, healing talk: ‘What is Country?’ This is the second talk in the series. Mary Massina, CEO of Macquarie Point Development Corporation, welcomed the audience of about 100 people, who were interested in finding out more about the reconciliation role and the development of Macquarie Point. Mary Massina told how she was humbled to pay her respects to the Elders, the Indigenous people, and introduced Ruth Langford, an environmentalist, a social justice and youth worker, an arts therapy worker, and a Song woman and Storyteller. With a diverse background in cultural arts, environmental, social justice, youth work and Indigenous medicines therapy, Ruth divides her time into projects that reflect her passion for uniting ancient traditions and contemporary innovations for optimistic action and healing for her people. Ruth Langford mentioned the Yorta Yorta people, and her vision to connect people, in a cultural arts centre, a centre for arts healing. In a calming, gentle, relaxing style, Ruth Langford’s “acknowledgement
to country” was a beautiful meditative experience.
In the formal setting of the Hobart Town Hall, with its colonial architecture, solid walls, high ceilings and clerestory windows, we felt as if we were being led, spiritually, out of the constrictive building, out through the noise and clamour of midday on a mid-week workday, out to the ancient hills and to the calming past. She said, “To the faces I know and dear hearts, I offer my respect to ancestral creation. Families that loved this country, and the country that loved them, I pay deep respects to the Aboriginal people and their lineage, and to all the lineages... to grandparents, aunties, uncles and parents... I pay respect to future generations. Every step I take, I am imparting a legacy... I am awakening a legacy in all of those to follow, to come.” Ruth brought precious relics, two ballowini (ochre grinding stones) wrapped in a cloth – she called them “Aunties” – to be respectfully handed around. She said: “be respectful, mindful, as you hand them around, as respectful and mindful as you would be if you were meeting the queen. We are custodians – [listen to the country]. The country talks [walk my talk].” Ruth explained that, (in opposition to the Western, patriarchal society) “I am not the custodian of them, they are the custodians of me.”
Storyteller – oral tradition
As a Song woman and Storyteller, Ruth draws upon the cultural knowledge of her Yorta Yorta mother and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community where she was born and continues to live. Combining over twenty years travelling the world sitting with Indigenous Elders, Senior Knowledge Keepers and World Wisdom Teachers with conscious research, Ruth Langford’s vision is to connect people to the ancient wisdom of Indigenous teachings in a contemporary and relevant context through the expression of cultural arts, ceremony and ritual. Establishing Nayri Niara, a Centre for the Arts of Healing, Ruth has gained a reputation as a capable facilitator and coordinator of effective capacity building programs, which have as their guiding principles, Connection to Country, Culture and to the Sacred.
She is an Indigenous therapist, a physiotherapist, has experience in Transpersonal Psychology and a Masters in Indigenous Health. Ruth Langford’s storytelling includes her own history, learning her place, and accepting the inputs from her parents – from her mother, listening to the trees, the country; and from her father, Christianity. Ruth had a period of rejecting both sets of beliefs. When she said she ran amok, and had bad times, the audience related to her experiences. Ruth described something we could identify with – a spiritual awakening. Ruth Langford said, “It’s not the fact that I had an awakening, but the fact that it was Country that awoke me. My hope is that families can connect in a way that creates healing.” Watch out for the Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival, uniting ancient tradition with contemporary innovation. It will be held from 9th to 11th March 2019. In the meantime, there will be further opportunities to enjoy Conversations @ Mac Point and with speakers who further the
Social isolation is one of the ‘buzz’ phrases at present, but it is an issue well worth considering. It is particularly noticeable in a society which has so many celebrations such as Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Great if you have family nearby that celebrate with you, but what about all those who are alone on those ‘special days’? Those who tell themselves, “It’s just another day”. It only tends to emphasise the disconnect for many.
You may have caught a recent interview on The Drum where the author of a new book was on the panel. He was introduced thus with a question:
“Could social factors, including social isolation be behind the rise in depression and anxiety? Most of us have hundreds, if not thousands, of family and friends we are connected with online, but how many of those would you be able to call on if there was an emergency?”
That’s the question British-born journalist turned author, Johann Hari, wants us to ask ourselves.
Johann went on a trip around the world to find out why, in this age of online connection, we are experiencing such high rates of depression and anxiety.
After battling through his own mental health journey, he spoke with several of the world’s leading scientists to find out if there are more than just biological reasons behind mental illness.
“The causes of depression and anxiety are largely, but not entirely, in the way we’re living today,” Johann told Hack.
In his book Lost Connections, Johann says the reasons for depression and anxiety are not simply biological, and that medication alone is not enough to help fight the rising rates of mental illness. He was at pains to say though, that anti-depression medication is needed by many.
Lost Connections is a well-researched, systematic investigation of the social causes of depression and anxiety. Johann arranges the social causes into nine ‘disconnections’, each with a chapter: 1. Disconnection from meaningful work; 2. Disconnection from other people; 3. Disconnection from meaningful values (i.e. materialism); 4. Childhood trauma; 5. Disconnection from status and respect; 6. Disconnection from the natural world; 7. Disconnection from a secure future; 8. Genes; 9. Brain changes. This book is well worth reading, or listening to as an audio book.
As we age, numbers one and two above become even more important. Many do not realise that retirement, with all its benefits of ‘free time’ has the downside of not having the social interactions associated with work. Also, as we age, and maybe have to give up driving, interaction with other people becomes almost an optional extra. It is often easier to stay at home than make the effort to go out and socialise. But we have been warned it is not in our best interest to do so. In articles such as ‘Loneliness can be as bad as diabetes’ (International Express) or ‘Loneliness as bad for health as long-term illness’ (The Guardian), they say that UK GPs will be urged to make time to see lonely patients, who are 50% more likely to die prematurely than people with good social networks. Being lonely can be as bad for someone’s health as having a long-term illness such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
There has been a lot said, following the recent budget speeches, about the benefits of staying in one’s own home rather than going into aged care. The ‘Housing Decisions of Older Australians’ report, by the government’s Productivity Commission, released in late 2015, showed that “over 60% of older Australians would strongly prefer to ‘age in place’ by staying in their own homes”. The report found that this is a cost-effective option and recommended that the government make several policy changes outlined to help older home owners to remain in their home more easily.
Call me cynical, but I remember when a similar report about ‘cost effective’ provisions – dedicated mental hospitals versus care in the community – was implemented. Trouble was the second part was not, and still is not, financed properly.
So, we have over 50,000 Home Care packages ‘approved’ in the December quarter. But ‘approved’ just means the clients can enter the system and join the queue!
This might all be ‘cost effective’ for the government but what about the resulting health effects of the social isolation particularly for those older and living alone?
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