I feel compelled to write about a situation that occurred last Saturday evening at Mass.
Firstly, I would like to say how proud I am to be part of this faith community. We truly are a welcoming and supportive community and even though a stranger came into our midst, a young man who was clearly unwell and behaving extremely oddly, the majority of parishioners at Mass on Saturday evening demonstrated genuine concern for this young man’s well being and real concern that he receive the medical assistance he obviously required. I was immensely proud of those parishioners who came to his aid directly after Mass to ensure he was okay and stayed talking with him and reassuring him until the police and paramedics arrived.
This young man was in a state of psychosis and sought solace by coming to Mass on Saturday night. I don’t know this young man nor do I recall having seen him at Mass before however I recognised that he was trying to find comfort in the spiritual as a way of alleviating the way he was feeling. I acknowledge his presence was unnerving for some of the congregation particularly those with young children as they were concerned for their families I also acknowledge that some people felt this young man posed a threat to Fr. John and it was truly wonderful to witness how concerned you were and how protective you were of our priest. Fr John has asked me to convey to you that at no time did he feel threatened by this young man’s behaviour. Fr John kept a watchful eye during Mass and at any stage had he felt that either he or any other member of the congregation was under threat he would have taken appropriate action. Fr John has the benefit of many years experience of talking with and assisting numerous people who have mental health issues.
Some parishioners conveyed to me they thought the young man was on drugs. I don’t know this young man’s story however his condition may have actually been caused by a lack of drugs i.e. medication. The sad reality for many who live in our community with mental illness is they choose to stop taking their medication when they feel well due to the side effects caused by the medication or they simply stop taking medication so they are not viewed as being different. They want to feel normal and fit in with the rest of society however this backfires as they become increasingly unwell the longer they stay off their medication.
Unfortunately many people in our community live lonely and isolated lives due to their mental health condition and a fair number of them no longer have the support of family because mental illness is a tough gig and often causes family relationships to break down. This young man came to the right place last Saturday night because he came into our midst at a time when he was extremely unwell and we were able to demonstrate that we truly are a welcoming and supportive community. As a long time carer of someone challenged by mental health issues it gives me great heart to see how, as a community, we are able to demonstrate understanding, acceptance and genuine care and concern for those who live with mental illness. I am also delighted by the number of people who have enquired this week about this young man’s well being and all those who have conveyed to Fr John that they are praying for this young man. Personally I hope to see this young man again when he is well enough to see what support we can offer him.
Finally, as a carer, my wish is that should my family member become unwell again they be fortunate enough to encounter kind and compassionate people just like you.
Carol Fleming, Parish Manager
For any mental health emergency situation you can call the Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) at Frankston Hospital:
Under 18 years
Psychiatric Triage (24 hour) call 1300 369 012
18 years and over
Psychiatric Hotline (24 hour) call 1300 792 977
The CAT team provide 24 hour, 7 days a week assessment and short-term treatment services for people experiencing a serious mental health crisis and for whom there are urgent safety issues.
More information can be found at the R U OK? website.
Mind Australia can be contacted in Victoria or you can call Mind Connect on 1300 286 463
Peninsula Health Services can be contacted (24 hours a day) 1300 792 977
Headspace Frankston is a health service for young people living in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region. We colocate with YSAS (Youth Support and Advocacy Service), SalvoCare, MIND, PSS, Skillsplus and have access to other youth services. We also outreach to Shed11 in Hastings and Y-Lounge in Rosebud. If you wish to access any of our services, give us a call on (03) 9769 6419. Open Mondays to Fridays – check the website for details.