Spiritual Health Lived Experience Advisory Committee: A Reflective Look Back Over 2023 

By Committee members, Evan, Maria, Tess & Betty (as told by Tess Marotta) 

At our final meeting for 2023, the SHLEAC committee members came together to discuss the value of SHA and SHLEAC, and how our association with the organisation has supported our growth and development. It was a wonderful opportunity to cap off what has been a successful year of growing our network, strengthening our connections, advocating for spirituality in the mental health and wellbeing space, and building our capacity to be ambassadors and leaders in the lived experience workforce. Our network has supported and empowered members to bring their experiences and beliefs to the work that they do and find commonality.  

We discussed why spirituality is a fundamental aspect of our existence, and Evan shared the etymology of spirituality pertaining to spirit, and breath. Much like how our existence is dependent upon our breath, so too does it depend upon our spirituality, and deep sense of connection, oneness, purpose, and meaning in life.

When reflecting on what would be lost should SHA not survive the current funding climate (and by extension SHLEAC), a resounding agreement was that our voices would be lost, and the provision of a safe space for us to come together, unite, and lead in the mental health space so that we can influence positively with regards to the value of spiritual care. SHA provides a safe space where members can be their true and whole selves. This is reflective of spiritual care in the health setting, which provides an opportunity to explore oneself, holistically, and the human experience. Spirituality invites the process of self-reflection and meaning making. It also has diversity embedded in it, and respect for diversity is fundamental to any organisation that seeks richness and vitality at its core.  

Betty said her association with SHA & SHLEAC has allowed her voice to be heard and because of shared values, she has built the confidence to share evidence-based information about spiritual care. She also spoke about how spirituality fosters hope, which is an important component of the work she does. Maria shared how SHLEAC is a space for likeminded people to connect and found value in being part of a team and organisation that provides assurance. Tess echoed a gratitude for the sense of belonging SHLEAC creates, and the reminder of oneness that is inherent to her worldview. Evan expressed appreciation for the resources available at SHA, and how it has helped with strengthening his courage to speak of his lived experience; something that was not possible many years ago.  

The group discussed our achievements so far, including the development of a network, planning of a position statement, and the co-design of a video production to communicate the importance of spirituality and spiritual care in mental health. Looking to the future, we hope to continue to grow our leadership skills and capacity to bring our expertise and insights to the wider community, as educators raising awareness of the importance of spirituality in the mental health journey. This will allow the health workforce to scale up their knowledge, and it is hoped that we can co-create education packages for organisations. We also hope to create a network of partnerships, have more face-to-face meetings, and take a more active role in engaging with organisations as ambassadors of SHA. Celebrating our achievements is also important to the committee, and we have a vision for a mini conference in the future to continue sharing research and evidence for the vital inclusion of spiritual care in the mental health system. Maria raised the idea of potentially increasing committee membership, and it was agreed that having representatives from external organisations (e.g., EACH) would show SHA is supported and valued by sector professionals.  

Overall, our reflection was a fulfilling process that affirmed the necessity of spirituality, from meaning making right through to the importance of rituals. Tess shared from her personal experience how spirituality provides a resource for dealing with what is the human struggle. It’s what helps us cultivate our identity, hope, connections, and purpose in this world. There is no right or wrong, but an awareness of what is true to us, and allows us to thrive in this world.  

Published 25th January 2024