39% of New Zealanders experience mental health issues at some stage of their lives. The contemporary approach is to not remove the mentally ill from our community, but to remove the stigma by viewing them as people just like you and I.

Over the years I have experienced periods of mental illness, including depression and anxiety and have been supported and healed by God’s love, therapy and medication. The experience of mental illness is different for everyone. Empathy from personal experience and suffering can go a long way in forming bridges with patients.

The main mental health disorders are mood-based such as depression and bi-polar. Psychosis is often part of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. Anxiety can be debilitating in many different ways. Addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol can reach a stage where treatment and detox help is needed. Spiritual care involves authentic friendships that listen and accepts people as they are.

At Hillmorton Hospital I have placement in the acute wards and divide my time between one on one meetings, anointing and room blessings. I lead a group called “Spirited Wellness.” This group helps patients with recovery and offers hope and insights from the gospel. Topics include; grief, anger management, positive thinking, mihi and identity, other faiths, love languages, recovery planning, assertive communication, self worth and forgiveness. “…do something beautiful for God. There is light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.” Mother Teresa.

I invite patients of all faiths to a bi-cultural communion service weekly sharing this special service with the Catholic Chaplain in a lounge room prepared as a peaceful and tapu place. “Kia mau ki te tumanako te whakapono me te aroha.” Hold fast to faith, hope and love.

Don Rowlands M.A. Grad. Dip. Theology. M.Ed (Counselling), Assistant Chaplain Bishop’s Ministry Cert.