It is the month of Easter also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, a Christian festival and cultural holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. It is also Passover, called Pesach, a major Jewish holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and it is Ramadan the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Through fasting, Muslims believe that they turn the heart away from worldly activities and thus cleanse their soul. Ramadan teaches self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate.
As I reflect on this period and its emphasis on suffering, empathy, community and hope, I am struck by the present world’s many struggles as well as the turmoil that pounds my smaller, more immediate world. With daily updates on the war in Ukraine and the massive loss of life, livelihood and country, I am taken back to Afghanistan where, only some months previously, terrified people out of shear desperation, fear and, ironically, hope are photographed clinging to the fuselage and wings of a plane as it takes off. Despite the distance, we watch with horror and feel their distress. But very soon we are distracted by catastrophes of our own—unprecedented floods that destroy whole towns, not once but twice.
In my even closer community, I‘m struck by the horror of our own modern pandemic, Mental Ill Health. Every day our papers report horror incidents of distress and destruction in shocking numbers. New stories, new casualties of this pandemic pile one on another. Despite heroic initiatives by truly concerned and committed people, the increasing numbers of our young who suffer is extraordinary. Within my own family as well as within the circle of my friends, at this moment, there are three beautiful young adults currently in hospital with acute mental ill health. In Australia 20% (one in five people) suffer from mental health issues in any year, aged between 16-85.
At Woven Threads we are trying to create material that raises awareness of the tell-tale symptoms and the difficult challenges experienced by these youngsters. We hope that education can lead to prevention or at least to awareness so that help can be provided before the crisis hits. We are constantly searching for ways to reach the young, and to educate the community so that there is no fear and no stigma associated with this pandemic. Our aim is to reverse this tragic trajectory.
Through our search and story-telling I have been fortunate to meet many amazing people who have travelled this journey of mental ill health and have found their own paths. Their courage and persistence gives me hope for those I love and know. It is a dark and challenging road they and their carers face. If they are lucky enough to have good professional support, it is slightly less harrowing—but it isn’t enough. I am certain we must face this problem proactively. I believe that unless we regard mental health to be as important as maths, science and English in the school curriculum, and we teach our children to recognise the signs of mental health struggles in themselves and others, this pandemic will not abate and our children’s lives will continue to be at the mercy of this infliction just as the world at present is at the mercy of dictators and rogue regimes.