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"For us who work in education, we are blessed with the spirit of optimism inherent in young people"

Fr Hans Christiansen's Newsletter 17 June 2021

It has not been an easy past three weeks for people in Melbourne! We are all lockdown fatigued in Victoria. As the lockdown was announced many people reported feeling a sense of re-traumatisation. In some ways, as has been noted by many, perhaps this lockdown, though short, has been the hardest of all of the lockdowns the past year and three months. While the lockdown restrictions, thankfully, are gradually easing and our students have returned to school, it seems many are marked by this lockdown. After all, given we find ourselves yet again in a lockdown, many are understandably frustrated and worried that these lockdowns potentially could continue until the vast majority of people are vaccinated, which by all accounts will not be before next year or the year after. This uncertainty has left many people feeling anxious and worried and the toll on Victorians’ mental health is, by all accounts, very heavy.

For us who work in education, we are blessed with the spirit of optimism inherent in young people. It has been such a delight seeing the students back on campus. Young people quickly bounce back and our three campuses are once again filled with life. However, we should not be surprised if some of our young people, like many of us adults, are feeling anxious and worried about the future.

Last week, our Senior School Captain, Will Flintoft, spoke eloquently about the importance of looking after our mental health and how important it is to share with others if we are feeling down. While we have become much better at recognising the need to share our mental health struggles with each other, some people still find it very difficult to share mental health issues with others. In some circles it is still seen as shameful to be struggling with mental health issues. However, we have come a long way in opening up. Prominent politicians and professional athletes, for example, have courageously spoken up and revealed their struggle with depression helping us all to understand how people we perceive to be highly successful can be silently suffering.

We know that the earlier people seek help the better. It can be challenging to reveal one’s own difficulties to someone but talking with others is often the first step on the pathway to recovery. One of my favourite lines in the Bible is from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians which states that, “Bearing each other’s burdens fulfils the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). Caring for one another, suffering with each other, holding each other is fulfilling the law of Christ, which is love.

These days Positive Psychology is growing increasingly popular. The focus for recovery is a positive and optimistic outlook. However, sometimes life is too dark to think about positive thoughts. Sometimes people need to be given permission just to share their hopelessness with another who is willing to listen and that can be tremendously healing. Christian faith in the cross and resurrection delivers no easy way out of pain and darkness, rather it affirms that healing often emerges out of darkness and pain.

At Melbourne Grammar we have a great support system of pastoral care with psychologists, chaplains and other pastorally trained staff on all three campuses who are ready to assist our students and staff who may struggle with mental health issues. Our students are regularly told to speak to us if they struggle and they are encouraged not to suffer silently. 

I encourage everyone in our community to reach out to others if you are struggling. Sharing our pain, our anxiety, our fears, unease and frustration is cathartic. When a friend or parent or teacher knows what we are thinking and feeling we feel less alone and it makes the inner burden we may feel less heavy. Importantly, if someone seeks you out to share their thoughts and feelings, seek to be as attentive as possible. Attention to one another can go a long way in creating intimate bonds and if things are not ok, loving attention can be the first step towards recovery and healing.

Reverend Fr Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain Melbourne Grammar, June 17 2021

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