Personalities aid World Day of Sick mental illness focus

Actor Garry McDonald and writer and broadcaster Anne Deveson will join Catholic leaders in marking World Day of the Sick next month in Adelaide.

CLICK HEREThe London Universe newspaper website reports that Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, will represent Pope Benedict XVI at the event, which is scheduled for 11 February.

Three days of events, including Mass and anointing of the sick at Adelaide's St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, are planned for the commemoration.

The Holy Father, who is also expected to send a special message on mental health and human dignity, announced on 9 December in a written message that mental health would be a particular focus of World Day of the Sick.

Recently, the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference health care lobby has expressed concerns about government performance in caring for the mentally ill.

"People with severe and complex mental disorders, young people with dual diagnoses and workers struggling to get back into employment remain poorly served by our human services system," said Francis Sullivan, chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of Australia.

Sullivan said a recent federal government report on mental health "clearly shows that governments need to embrace the flexibility and innovation which comes from the nongovernment sector and embark on a concerted case management program to better cater for people living difficult lives with the disability of mental illness." Meanwhile, the federal government has emphasized that since 1993 it has increased federal funding for mental health.

In recent days, Prime Minister John Howard said urgent attention would be given to mental health policy in 2006.

The government will examine a proposed voucher system, which would give mentally ill people and their caregivers a greater range of treatment options, including payment for home care.

The prime minister also is expected to introduce a proposal for reform of mental health services at the next meeting of federal and state governments on 10 February, one day before World Day of the Sick.

Meanwhile Adelaide's Archbishop Philip Wilson last week released his "Mental Health and Human Dignity" Pastoral Letter for the World Day of the Sick.

He stressed the Church's practical concerns, which spring from work with people affected by mental health problems in schools, parishes, and other agencies and works of the Church.

He said that mental health requires "urgent attention" if society is to "more adequately respond to the challenges facing sufferers, their families and carers".

"By saying our concern is ongoing, I am conscious that for real and lasting change to occur, it will require a commitment to action going well beyond the celebration of World Day of the Sick," he said. "We will need to explore ways in which we as Church can work together with 'consumers', governments, non-government agencies and the community sector to achieve necessary and lasting improvements in the level of care for those affected by mental illness."

Mental illness focus for World Day of the Sick in Australia (The Universe 6/1/05)
Most Rev P Wilson DD JCL, Archbishop of Adelaide: "Mental Health and Human Dignity" Pastoral Letter for World Day of the Sick 2006 (Archdiocese of Adelaide 6/1/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Day of the Sick
Archdiocese of Adelaide
Pope's speech for World Day of Sick (PDF 178k)
Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care
Pope John Paul II - Messages - World Days of the Sick

Pope announces mental health focus for Adelaide World Day of Sick (CathNews 9/12/05)
Adelaide to host World Day of the Sick (CathNews 30/9/05)
Cameroon hosting today's World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/05)
Lourdes celebrates World Day of the Sick (CathNews 10/2/04)
Call for better community care for aged on World Day of the Sick (CathNews 11/2/03)

9 Jan 2006