Centre for Mental Health Learning VICTORIA

CMHL February 2021 Newsletter feature:
Spiritual Health Association

In this newsletter:
The last year has been exceptionally challenging for everyone, especially the Victorian mental health workforce. This CMHL newsletter has been prepared by one of our statewide training providers, Spiritual Health Association, and explores how ritual and ceremony can support mental health and wellbeing in all aspects of life.

Back in June 2020 CMHL featured information, training opportunities, and resources associated with how spirituality as a resource and spiritual care as an intervention can be applied to mental health care to support recovery. If you wish to revisit this information, please click on this link -
In this issue we will explore more of how spirituality finds expression and how it is interwoven with all aspects of our being.

Spirituality equates to meaning, purpose and connectedness, and is deeply interwoven with all of who we are. It permeates and is integrated with the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects of being and experience, and has expression in each of these domains.

For example, some people may experience or express spirituality in the following ways-

  • Physical – in the posture or movement of prayer, the wakefulness of paying attention to the senses, or the act of being in service to others.
  • Emotional – in the cultivation of compassion, loving-kindness, generosity toward ourselves and others. It might in the experience of awe and wonder in response to a beautiful sunset. It might be in accepting all of the feeling states that move through.
  • Intellectual – in reading sacred or inspiring texts; or engaging in discussion with others. It might be contemplating what it means to be human.
  • Social – in gathering in ritual, ceremony, prayer, service, song, or dance. It might be visiting a sick friend, or in fundraising for a cause we know makes the world a better place.  (Reference: Meaningful Aging Australia)
In this newsletter Spiritual Health will specifically focus on ritual and ceremony and how it supports mental health and wellbeing in all aspects of general life and recovery. 

Ritual & Ceremony

Ritual and ceremony have been used for eternity to give meaning, honour, and celebration to the significant transitions in our lives. They have the capacity to speak to the part of us that connects with something greater than ourselves and offers the opportunity to have our stories witnessed and validated as meaningful and important. Ritual embraces all those bigger life events that celebrate birth, death, or marriage.
Photo by Jérémie Crausaz on Unsplash

But of equal importance are many everyday rituals that support us to develop and sustain structure, rhythm, and flow in our lives. From walking the dog, making the bed to planning, preparing, and sharing family meals – these are all rituals.
2020 was the year that many people commenced working from home. It quickly became apparent how many daily routines in our workplace are governed by small yet important rituals.

For example, pre-Covid19 the team at Spiritual Health used to gather each day at 10am in the meeting room. Someone volunteered to read a short reflection followed by 10 minutes of meditation, the silence broken by a Tibetan singing bowl. This ritual concluded by sharing time together over morning tea.
Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

The circumstances of 2020 necessitated morning reflection move online to ensure this ritual and team connection was not lost.
  • What are the daily/weekly/monthly rituals you engage in?
  • Were they able to be modified for Covid-19?
  • How important are they to the rhythm and flow of your life?
Many mental health clinical presentations contain some aspects of grief and loss. Sometimes those feelings need to be acknowledged in a way that is not usually found in mental health settings or treatment guidelines. The practice of spiritual care has the capacity to look outside the box to offer an alternative approach that can be incredibly supportive.
Spiritual care is the provision of assessment, counselling, support, and ritual in matters of a person's beliefs, traditions, values, and practices enabling the person to access their own spiritual resources. 

Video stories

The following short videos (between 5-7 minutes) tell two different stories that share the theme of reconciling loss and grief in the event of personal tragedy resulting in significant mental health challenges. Both Jo and Dean were assisted to find inner peace and a way forward with the support of a ritual.
  1. Jo's story
  2. Dean's story can be found in this Reuters article
    Warning: the video contains disturbing footage.

Other related resources

Further reading - Please utilise the Vic Mental Health library to access full texts (public mental health staff are eligible for membership).
  1. Bowles, N – God is dead, so is the office. These people want to save both. 2020. The New York Times.
  2. Harper, A & Willis, K – Hospital memorial service bereavement support. 2020. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.
  3. Imber-Black, E – Rituals in the Time of Covid-19: Imagination, Responsiveness, and the Human Spirit. 2020. Family Process.

Stay in touch with SHA:

Follow Spiritual Health Association on Twitter, LinkedIn, visit the website, or sign up for our newsletter here:

Accessing online resources on the CMHL website

You can find more resources and training on the CMHL's website.
For scheduled online events, like Zoom training and scheduled webinars, click here.
For always available e-learning modules or previously recorded material click here.
Please look after yourselves - from all of us here at CMHL.

Centre for Mental Health Learning

Our vision is to be the centrepiece for mental health learning in Victoria; leading and driving innovation that strengthens and sustains a flexible, curious, knowledgeable and recovery-focused workforce.

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