Today is RUOK Day, “our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that every day is the day to ask, “Are you OK?” And to offer support to those struggling with life’s ups and downs.

Mental illness is nothing new. We are just more aware these days than in previous times. As the human race has developed in insight, knowledge, and understanding, people have become more conscious of mental illnesses and care for those who live with them.

Mental Health

World Health Organisation defines mental health as “… a state of wellbeing in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

If that definition describes you, you are considered to be mentally healthy most of the time. If it doesn’t, you’re probably living with a mental illness. According to the Better Health website, “Many mental illnesses are thought to have a biological cause. What triggers a mental illness is not known.”

The History of Mental Illness

For thousands of years, ancient peoples considered mental illnesses to be caused by the struggle between good and evil and the devil’s work. The antidote was an exorcism.

For centuries people believed mental illnesses were the result of “bad blood” or weakness of character. Hippocrates was primarily responsible for introducing that mental disorders were all biological in origin, and he wasn’t entirely wrong.

Well-known philosophers like Aristotle & Plato (4th and 5th centuries before Jesus) wrote about mental disorders resulting from psychological, social, and cultural factors. They also advocated humane and responsible care for individuals with psychological disturbances and were, in many ways, well ahead of their time.

A century ago, mental illnesses were managed by imprisoning the “insane” behind asylum walls to reduce the risk posed to the broader community. People were punished for being ill, something that was reflected in the language like ‘lunatics’ and ‘inmates.’ Their keepers was ‘wardens.’

How things have changed

Tremendous advances in the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses have occurred over the past 100 years.

In 1955 the first Anti-psychotic drugs became available, and the practice of Psychiatry developed from there. In 1981, the Richmond report argued for deinstitutionalisation of those with a mental illness. This began in Australia in 1992. It was poorly funded and orchestrated. We’ve come a long way, but we still have far to go.

Mental distress in the Bible

One of the many things I appreciate about the Bible is its raw honesty. Consider David’s expression of distress in Psalm 102, “My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones” (4-5). He continues by revealing his insomnia. Other Bible characters who appeared to live with mental illness include Elijah (1 Kings 19:4–5) and Hannah (1 Samuel 1:7–8).

Jesus experienced mental turmoil in the garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). “Jesus Wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible that once and for all demolishes the idea that Jesus doesn’t understand your deepest feelings.

An apostle’s experience

Paul was no stranger to suffering. He had more than his fair share of difficulties, depression, and anxieties. And he’s candid about them in his writings, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death …” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)

The Greek word translated “Utterly burdened” refers to an overloaded ship riding low in the water. See that picture in your mind. Paul was so utterly, unbearably crushed that he couldn’t get up. Inertia gripped his being so much he ‘despaired of life itself.’ His depression was so deep that he was ‘without a way of escape.’ In his mind right then, there was no exit and no hope.

Paul speaks here from the depths of his very human heart. Thankfully, he shared with others that he had thoughts such as these. He did not put on an air of invincibility. I’m encouraged by this man’s vulnerability, and I hope you are too.

You’re in good company

All of us face tough times. Some experience depression or other types of mental illness. 1 in 5 Australians will face some sort of mental disorder in any given year. 45% of us will deal with a mental illness at some stage in our lifetime.

In my younger years, I battled with depression. Something that was triggered a decade ago when I was seriously burned. I reached out for help and received it. That has made a world of difference.

Finding hope and healing

Firstly, seek help & knowledge. A mental illness is a sign that something is wrong, but there are several possible causes ~ social, psychological, spiritual, or biological. These are often interrelated, so a holistic approach is best. Chat with your GP, receive pastoral care and prayer, and find a good counsellor. (Bayside Church pastors can help you with this ~

Exercise increases wellbeing and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. Eat healthily, avoid alcohol, and get regular check-ups.

Stay outwardly focused by engaging in work, hobbies, creative arts, or sports with others. Resist the temptation to talk about yourself and your problems. And engage in activity that contributes to others.

Genuine faith

Suffering is part of the human condition, so don’t buy into poor theology that we shouldn’t suffer in this life, that it’s normal to be happy and healthy all the time. Suffering is not a threat to your faith in God.

Genuine faith can grow as you meditate on Scripture, pray & worship, and build robust relationships in your church community. Make sure you are a part of a healthy Christian family where people will be compassionate and understanding.

Matthew Henry was a non-conformist minister & author in the 1700s. About compassion, he wrote, “Let us learn how to value our own reason, and to pity the case of those that are under the prevailing power of melancholy or distraction, or are delirious, and to be very tender in our censures of them and conduct towards them, for it is a trial common to men, and a case which, some time or other, may be our own.”

A final word

At times when you’re feeling overloaded, like a ship with too much cargo sinking into the water, may I encourage you to reach out for help and allow others to help you carry some of the overloads?

The old saying, “A burden shared is a burden halved,” is true. Researchers from California have proved that the best way to beat stress is to share your feelings. Sharing a threatening situation “buffers individuals from experiencing the heightened levels of stress that typically accompany threat.”

The Bible encourages us to “Share each other’s burdens” and “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”

A healthy Christian community is one in which we walk gently with one another, where we view each other as loved by God and therefore worthy of love and respect. Where the church is a safe place for those who suffer. We all acknowledge that we struggle with weak areas in our lives and will also be good at setting boundaries and recognising that we cannot meet every need.


I am not a mental health expert, and I don’t pretend to be. In writing this blog, I have read widely and taken guidance and advice from a mental health professional.

Much is being spoken of at present about the shadow pandemic, and rightly so. It would be remiss of us to focus on the health crisis caused by the pandemic and not also give attention to the severe impacts of the lockdowns and restrictions.

What is the Shadow Pandemic?

Since the outbreak of covid-19, all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified. The term “Shadow Pandemic” was first coined regarding this increase in domestic violence caused by lockdown restrictions. Women and children found themselves restricted to home with an abusive, violent man.

The Shadow Pandemic now also refers to mental health concerns that have also increased, especially amongst young people. There has been an increase in ambulance attendances for suicidal thoughts and self-harm in NSW and Victoria. Add to these significant crises the grinding sense of COVID fatigue that many of us experience, and we have a shadow pandemic.


Suicides do not appear to have increased thus far due to the pandemic. Hopefully, this is owing to the array of services to help people with their mental health and programs like Job Keeper designed to soften the economic blow resulting from lockdowns.

But let’s steer clear of arguing about suicide statistics. One suicide is one too many, and it’s something that touches us deeply. I attempted to end my life when I was 20. I am very grateful I failed. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I think of the life I would have missed out on if I had ended my life. Not to mention my beautiful family and all the people I’ve impacted in the last four decades.

In my pastoral ministry, I’ve attended homes where a person has suicided. I’ve broken the tragic news to family members, I’ve conducted the funerals. It’s heartbreaking. So please, look out for your friends and family, as well as yourself. If you need help, please reach out. If you’re concerned for a friend or family member, please reach out.

Back to Normal?

It’s unlikely that any sense of “normal life” will return before 2022. We need to realise that life as we knew it is, for the time being, past tense. I read a fascinating story recently about a guy who suffered as a prisoner of war. He mentioned that the men who managed the best didn’t expect an imminent rescue. They got their mind around the concept of the long haul. That’s a healthy approach for us right now.

And realise too that “normal” life will be very different. Achieving 70-80% vaccination doesn’t mean this virus goes away. The Delta variant is at least twice as infectious as the original strain. Along with governments and medical professionals, the community will need to determine how many people getting sick and dying is acceptable to us.

For example, new research from the University of WA (and others) reveals reopening at a 70% vaccination rate could result in 6.9 million symptomatic Covid-19 cases, 154,000 hospitalisations, and 29,000 deaths. If Australia reopens once 80% of adults are vaccinated, there could be approximately 25,000 fatalities and 270,000 cases of long-COVID.

The New Normal

Living with COVID-19 will mean cases of the virus will need to be detected, traced to their source, and everyone infected will need to isolate. Quarantine will continue for those returning from overseas (“Test. Trace. Isolate. Quarantine”). Lockdowns will be limited and local and only mandated when the health system is under stress. Masks will be a sensible measure where physical distancing is not possible. My Asian friends have been wearing them for years! No, I don’t like wearing a mask either. Also “no,” I don’t like getting sick or passing sickness onto others.

With new technology, vaccines will improve, and treatments will become available. Vaccine passports may be necessary for the transition period, as was the case during the Spanish Flu pandemic a century ago. More on that at another time. I don’t believe that vaccination will be mandated except in certain professions and as required by individual companies.

In the meantime

Vaccination remains our best line of defence. I strongly encourage you to talk this through with your GP. COVID-19 is a terrible disease. Some have played down the seriousness of this virus, quoting statistics of over 99% recovery rate, but this is not the entire picture. A large portion of COVID-19 patients—possibly as high as 30 percent…suffer some type of neurological or psychiatric symptoms. Those concerned for people’s mental health need to consider this outcome of COVID-19.

These health issues, named Long COVID, can linger for weeks or months after the initial infection. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog,” sleep disorders, fevers, gastrointestinal problems, sharp muscle pain, anxiety, and depression. These can range from mild to incapacitating.

Even people who didn’t require hospitalisation are having persistent trouble. What is unclear is how many people will eventually recover and how many will be left with devastating long-term effects. What is clear is this is a virus you want to avoid at all costs ~ and avoid passing on to others!

Guard your Heart

So, how are you doing right now? If you’re stressed by the lockdowns and battling with mental health, consider Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It’s a case of ‘secure your oxygen mask first before you help those around you.’ We all have a responsibility to self-care. If the news and social media feeds are dampening your spirits, turn them off. Do things that refresh you. What restores and uplifts you? And then, you’ll be able to look out for others from a well that is plentiful, not dry.

Further Help

(If a life is in danger, phone 000)

Lifeline ~ 13 11 14

Beyond Blue ~ 1300 22 46 36 (depression and anxiety)

Headspace ~ (Youth Mental health)

Kids’ Helpline ~ 1800 55 18 00

1800RESPECT ~ 1800 737 732 (sexual assault, domestic family violence)



Recommended Reading: Doherty Institute Executive Summary

Earlier this year, I received one of the most tragic phone calls I’ve ever taken.  One of our Bayside Church leaders told me that a guy, who’d been part of our church for over a decade, had died by suicide.  I dropped everything and raced over to the house.  By the time I arrived, detectives and the police were in attendance, confirming that the worst had happened and this precious guy had ended his life.

Over the next hours and days, I spent time letting his wife and family, and then his closest friends, know what had happened.  To see the utter devastation in so many people was heartbreaking.  At times like these, there are so many questions that cannot be answered.  At his funeral, I did my best to comfort, encourage, and give hope to his family and friends.

The sorrow I witnessed at the start of the year is encountered several times every day all around Australia, and thousands of times daily in every country of the world.[i]

 “Countries large and small, advanced and developing, all experience the pain of suicide firsthand.[ii]  In all but one of these countries (Lesotho), men are more likely to suicide than women (75% of suicides in Australia are men).

Suicide Rates

Last month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its Causes of Death report, highlighting that Australians are taking their lives at an unacceptable rate with suicides increasing.  Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst 15 to 44-year-old’s, and the third highest cause of death amongst those from 45 and 64.

SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath says, “Suicide rates are heading in the wrong direction and we need to change this.  We also know that the risk of suicide is higher for those living with complex mental illness and we still have a long way to go in reducing the stigma associated with complex mental illness and in facilitating access to adequate evidence-based care and support.  It is now more important than ever to support people and help them understand that the world is better off with them.”

Starting with Mental Health

One in two Australian men will have had a mental health issue at some time in their lives.  According to the Movember website, “Most of us say we’d be there for our mates if they need us.”  But sadly, “Most of us also say that we feel uncomfortable asking mates for help.”

Now more than ever there are a great number of resources available to help us deal with mental health concerns.  Websites like Conversations Matter offer lots of ideas for discussing suicide, and Beyond Blue have an entire page dedicated to getting help and ‘having the conversation.’  Heads Up Guys offer health strategies to help men manage and prevent depression, and Head to Health is an Australian Government initiative that enables you to access many mental health services and resources.

With regards to my friend who died earlier this year, none of us (his friends and family) were aware of how bad things were for him or that taking his life was on his mind.  We are all devastated by his loss.  Rarely a day goes by when I don’t think of him.

Finding Support After Suicide

One of the most helpful things at this time was a visit by a lady from Jesuit Social Services (JSS) who offer a program Support After Suicide.  She spent a couple of hours with me, Christie and our pastors at Bayside Church.  JSS offers some excellent resources on their website that will help you if someone close to you has taken their life.

Getting Active

Men’s mental health and suicide is something that touches (or will touch) us all.  Early intervention is a key strategy in mental health recovery.  I encourage you to start and continue those difficult conversations with loved ones, stay connected to your community and seek help if you recognise some warning signs in yourself or another.

RU OK also provides information on how to approach someone you may be concerned about.

If you’d like to do something practical, join me in November as I #bringbackthemo.  Create a profile on, grow a Mo and encourage people to donate to the cause of men’s mental health.  If you’d like to sponsor me, please click here.

Also, if you live in Melbourne, I invite you to join us at Bayside Church for a Men’s Mental Health Night on either the 8th or 13th November.  You’ll hear men talk about what it takes to develop a community of support, as well as GP’s about best practice treatments and their role in supporting men. It’s a free event, and everyone is welcome.

Further Help

SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or from 10am-10pm AEST

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Line – 1800 659 467

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Kids Helpline (5 to 25 years old) – 1800 551 800

Headspace (12 to 25 years old) –


[i] About 3,000 people a day commit suicide, that’s one every 40 seconds. For each individual who takes his/her own life, at least 20 attempts to do so.  Approximately one million people commit suicide every year worldwide.



According to the XXXChurch website “The scary truth … is that at least 72% of men and 28% of women use pornography.” 

In His book Ashamed No More, Dr. T. C. Ryan lists four reasons why porn use is counter to healthy human sexuality:

  1. Looking at porn is seeing something very personal, very intimate of another person, but it’s not mutual. There is no exchange, and no genuine intimacy. It’s one-sided.
  2. If we are aroused and then climax sexually using porn, we experience a neuro-chemical sequence that is disjointed. Part of the sequence is intensely pleasurable (dopamine) followed by another part leaving us wanting to be held (oxytocin) but we’re alone. We’re not bonding; we’re isolating.
  3. For many this solo, porn-induced neuro-cocktail becomes a preferred experience. We become attached to non-attaching sexual experience. And when we become compulsive consumers, our appetites become progressive. Contentment with healthy intimacy is replaced with soul-starving consumption.
  4. We have to carefully and honestly consider how pornography is produced. People are hurt, used and abused in porn production. There is a correlation between the demands for porn and sexual trafficking. Something beautiful and God-given gets flipped into something evil and destructive. Porn production and consumption moves us from the light and into the darkening gloom of the shadow-life.

The following testimony is from a member of Bayside Church who was addicted to porn for many years and has now found freedom:

I want to share a story with you of my journey through my sexual and porn addiction.

I grew up in a normal middle class home where I had everything I needed.

While in my early to mid-teens I was first exposed to pornography. I found a pornographic video in my father’s draw and out of curiosity I watched it.  Little did I know at that time, but my father had a problem with lust. He used sex as a way of dealing with problems. I grew up seeing a man who would view porn and flirt with other women, and it became an example for me in how to deal with the issues of life.

From this moment on a desire and interest in porn was ignited within me. It was like nothing I had ever seen or experienced before, and it gave me a sense of excitement in my life that I was longing for.

I began to feed my desire for lust and would at least once a week visit the local news agency and steal a playboy or penthouse magazine. I also began to hire out pornographic movies and watch them when my parents were not at home.

My addiction to porn and lust grew to the point where every night before I went to sleep I would view pornographic magazines. It was my drug. At the age of 20 I became a Christian and I thought that my addiction would end, however it didn’t and it only grew stronger once I had discovered the world of the Internet. Now I could access all the material I wanted from the comfort of home without having to walk into a shop.

I was desperate to get help, however many of my church leaders had no idea about how to deal with this issue, some even said to go away and fast for a few days. This didn’t help!

I continued on as best as I could. I would stumble and then get up and sometimes be fine for months at a time. I would then get too confident, let my guard down, and I would be back to square one. My struggle led to an enormous amount of shame and guilt. Even though I continued to struggle, I loved God and was desperate to break free.

During this time I was attending a large church in Melbourne and eventually became a staff member there.  I was living this double life and it was becoming unbearable. Everyone thought I was some great man of God without a struggle in the world, yet I knew that I had this area of my life which was not under control.

My struggle continued and I eventually came to a point where I had had enough and visited my pastor and told him of my struggle. Eventually it was brought before the leadership team and my struggle was made public. It was one of the most humiliating times of my life, yet also the most freeing. I didn’t have to pretend to have it altogether any more.  There was something incredibly freeing about being honest and open. That was the start of my recovery and healing. I had to hit rock bottom before I could heal. I began to become accountable and attended counseling.

I recognised the triggers in my life and avoided those situations in life that led to sin and temptation.

Just after I confessed to my pastor, I met a wonderful lady who has since become my wife. I was upfront with her from the start about all that had taken place and the grace and love that she showed me was just incredible. I couldn’t have done it without her.

It has been over four years since that time and I can thankfully say that I have not succumbed to the pull of porn. I thank God for his grace and forgiveness.

If you find yourself with an addiction to pornography (or any other sexual addiction) you cannot free yourself from it on your own. You need to seek help. First of all share your problem with a trusted, Christian friend (of the same gender) who will pray with you and keep you accountable. James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Seek counseling with a good counselor, and utilise the many useful online resources.  Here are two very good ones:

XXXChurch provides many incredible resources, workshops, X3watch accountability software, and online support groups to help you become the man or woman you want to be. Go to for more information and help.

The Feed the right wolf website is excellent too:

Job said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman” (Job 31:1). We would all do well to do the same!

I was shocked yesterday when I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide. Shocked because it was such a sad and senseless way for him to go.  Shocked because he has touched my life by his amazing work. One of my all-time favorite movies is Dead Poets Society. Our family love watching Mrs. Doubtfire. I’ve enjoyed Robin Williams’ work since the early days of Mork and Mindy. Remember Na-Nu Na-Nu and Shazbot? He has given us so much joy in films like Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Patch Adams and more. It’s tragic that a man who gave others joy in life found so little joy in his own.  And he wasn’t alone. There are hundreds of “sad clowns” in the entertainment world: Alan Alda, Owen Wilson & Jim Carrey to name but three.  Have a look at this list of famous people on Wikipedia who suffer from major depressive disorder…

There are many Bible characters that faced periods of depression too.

According to officials of the Marin County Sheriff’s Department Robin Williams is believed to have hanged himself with a belt in the bedroom of his home near San Francisco. He also had superficial cuts on his wrist and police found a pocketknife near him. His personal assistant found his body. His publicist confirmed that Williams had been battling severe depression.

The tragic passing of Robin Williams brings to the forefront an issue that millions of people struggle with each and every day. Depression is an illness that does not discriminate. It affects celebrities and regular people alike. And sometimes it has deadly consequences. I faced periods of deep depression in my own life in my teens and twenties. Thankfully it’s not something I struggle with much these days.

Last night on Social media I joined many others in expressing my sorrow at the passing of Robin Williams. I wrote, “So sad about Robin Williams taking his own life. This highlights again the very real need for people facing depression to reach out for help.” Several people responded to this statement including a Christian guy from South Africa. He wrote: “Well said Ps Rob…we have to realize that depression comes from the Devil…The word clearly says that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Too many people are not focusing on the word, but rather the negative influence from the world (media, music). We as Christians should reach out in Love and let each person know that Life is a choice and they can at any moment choose that life. The devil has blinded people for too long.”

My response was: “That’s partly true. The verse you quote in context actually refers to false prophets not the devil. Depression needs a holistic approach that includes the Word of God and prayer. Good pastoral care is necessary and oftentimes good medical and psychological care. All of these are good gifts from God.”

The reasoning behind my response is that I sometimes find Christians too simplistic and narrow in their response to major life issues. Just read the Bible and pray and all will be okay! But not even the Bible teaches that is enough to overcome major life issues. For example, James teaches to “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Life controlling issues, be they addictions or illnesses like depression, can rarely be overcome in solitude. Pastoral care, counseling and accountability are necessary.

Healing is a gift from God. Sometimes God heals instantly, sometimes gradually and sometimes though the avenue of good medical care. It is not a lack of faith for a Christian to see a doctor. God is not anti-doctors, nurses and specialists.  In fact, He chose Dr. Luke, “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) to write two of the Bible’s most important books – Luke and Acts. Paul advised Timothy to “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” He didn’t suggest he just read the Word and pray. In Isaiah 38:21 the prophet Isaiah (upon God’s directive) prescribed a poultice for King Hezekiah’s boil. Ezekiel 47:12 mentions the healing properties God has placed in plants. The Good Samaritan used oil and wine for medicinal purposes (Luke 10:34).

Medical experts and specialists can treat many conditions successfully, diagnose a condition so you can pray more specifically and confirm that healing or recovery have taken place. Of course medical science still has its limitations and it is sometimes when doctors can’t help that God steps in.

The second mistake my friend makes in his statement is inferring that depression is demonic in origin.  It could be but it is dangerous to presume that this is the case every time. Matthew 4:23-24 talks about various categories of illness that Jesus healed: those who were ill with various diseases, suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures – sudden attacks of a particular disorder, and the paralyzed.  Only one-in-five were demon-related disorders. Through prayer, good pastoral care, counseling and medical help the cause of depression can be found and an appropriate response put in place. Some people find healing while others learn to manage their condition with good support. Sadly there are others, like Robin Williams, whose life long struggle ends in tragedy.

If you’re struggling with depression – or any other life controlling condition – please reach out for help. Remember that suicide is permanent. Your problems can be a temporary problem.

Recent studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have profound and positive effects on our health, our moods and our relationships.  As doctors Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Centre, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”

Out of recent studies where group one was encouraged to focus daily on things they were grateful for, and group two focused on things that displeased them, the “gratitude” group:

* Felt better about their lives
* Were 25% happier
* Reported fewer health complaints
* Exercised, on average, one and a half hours more
* Were more likely to offer emotional support or help others who were facing a personal problem (i.e. gratitude increased their goodwill towards others)
* Reported more hours of sleep each night and were more refreshed when they awoke.
* Experienced more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, were more optimistic about the future, and were more connected with others.
* Were less likely to feel depressed (several studies have shown depression to be inversely correlated to gratitude)

Dr John Gottman at the University of Washington has been researching marriages for two decades. The conclusion of all that research is that unless a couple is able to maintain a high ratio of positive to negative encounters (5:1 or greater), it is likely the marriage will end.  The formula is that for every negative expression (a complaint, put-down, expression of anger) there needs to be about five positive ones (smiles, compliments, laughter, expression of appreciation and gratitude).  Now there’s something to practice!

“If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness,” so here are three simple things you can start practicing in order to develop an attitude of gratitude:

1. Keep a daily journal of three things you are grateful for. This works really well just before you go to bed.
2. Make it a practice to tell your spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them every day.
3. Look in the mirror while you’re brushing your teeth and think about something you have done well or something you like about yourself.

When you cultivate an attitude of gratitude things don’t just look better – they actually get better.  Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you too.

The Global Burden of Disease Report – a massive research effort involving almost 500 scientists in 50 countries – also concluded that we have finally got a handle on some common infectious diseases, helping to save millions of children from early deaths. But collectively we are spending more of our lives living in poor health and with disability.

Across the world, there has been significant success in tackling malnutrition, with deaths down two-thirds since 1990. But increasing prosperity has led to expanding waistlines in most countries as people eat more and get less exercise everyday.

Dr Majid Ezzati, chair of global environmental health at Imperial College London, and one of the lead authors of the report, said: “We have gone from a world 20 years ago where people weren’t getting enough to eat to a world now where too much food and unhealthy food – even in developing countries – is making us sick.”

But although obesity is a bigger problem, we still have a long way to go in the fight against malnutrition.  With this in mind a hundred charities have joined together to call on world leaders to tackle the "scandal" of hunger. 

The “Enough Food for Everyone IF” campaign is the biggest mobilisation to address poverty since Make Poverty History. 

The campaign has the backing of philanthropist Bill Gates and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as organisations like the Church of England, Tearfund, Christian Aid, Bond, Oxfam and Save the Children. 

Together they warn that almost a billion young people will experience a childhood of hunger and malnutrition by 2025, despite living in a world where there is enough food for everyone. 

A report by the groups says that the life chances of some 937 million children and people between the ages of 15 and 40 will be permanently damaged by the impact of childhood hunger.  Although 14,000 fewer children are dying each day than in 1990, the groups warn that unless hunger is addressed, progress will falter. 

The campaign calls upon David Cameron to make the most of the UK's G8 presidency this year to unite world leaders in addressing the root causes of hunger. 

Campaigners say that the hunger crisis can be solved if:


- Governments keep their promises on aid and invest to stop children dying from malnutrition (noting that the Australian Federal Government just cut foreign aid by $375 million).

- Legal loopholes are shut down to stop big companies tax dodging in poor countries.

- Poor farmers are not forced off their land and the available agricultural land is used to grow food for people and not biofuel for cars.

- Governments and investors are "honest and open about the deals they make in the poorest countries that stop people getting enough food."

Archbishop Tutu said hunger could be ended if leaders and individuals take action: “Hunger is not an incurable disease or an unavoidable tragedy.  We can make sure no child goes to bed hungry. We can stop mothers from starving themselves to feed their families. We can save lives. 
We can do all of this, if we are prepared to do something about it … we can make hunger a thing of the past if we act now.”

And “act” is the responsible of all of us who “have” in order to help those who “have-not.”  We’re living in a world where there is enough food for everyone.  The problem is some people have too much while others have way too little.

With the season of Lent starting on February 13 why not make a commitment to cut back on your food intake for 40 days, and then donate the money you save in order to combat poverty and hunger?  Let’s fight overeating and malnutrition at the same time – and make a difference to those in need.

But there’s another type of aloneness that doesn’t energise and refresh – that’s loneliness.  Wikipedia describes loneliness as “an unpleasant feeling in which a person experiences a strong sense of emptiness and solitude resulting from inadequate levels of social relationships.”  Loneliness has a number of causes – relationship breakdown, conflict, loss of friends and family, loss of mobility or health, reduction in income, moving to a new community or only having connection with others via social media such as Facebook.

Todd Harper, CEO of VicHealth says, “Loneliness is a growing problem in our society.  There will be an estimated 3.7 million Australians living alone by 2026.”  He goes on to say, “Recent research has shown social isolation can be as harmful for health as smoking cigarettes, and the evidence is stacking up that people with more friends live longer.”

Loneliness has also been described as “social pain”.  That’s an interesting definition because pain is a friend that comes to warn us of impending danger so that we can take action to avoid it.  Loneliness then is a mechanism meant to motivate us to seek social connections.

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen, last year described loneliness as “one of the major problems confronting society, the result of an emphasis on the individual at the expense of a commitment to other people.”  I agree.  And this individualism can even creep into our Christian faith so that we think it’s all about “Jesus and me!”  Some Christian songs reflect this view such as “All I need is you Lord.”  We need to remember that even the first human – who had a perfect relationship with God – was still alone, and God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  God’s solution to loneliness was the company of another human being (Genesis 2:18).  And this is still God’s solution – and a major reason why Jesus is building his church –to create a stable community in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

But church attendance per se will not cure loneliness.  You can be in a crowd of people and still feel lonely.  Loneliness is cured when we get to know others and are known by them.  This takes time and can be difficult especially if you’re shy, but it’s important to take some small steps in order to rise above loneliness – join a Connect Group at your church, volunteer with a group of people to serve others, get involved with shared activities you are genuinely interested in, like a hobby or sports team.

Being with people who are focusing on an activity you all enjoy can quickly lead to close personal bonds being formed.  You may also need to look at developing your social skills.  If you find yourself always talking about your problems other people will quickly get tired of hanging around you. 

Mother Theresa said, “Loneliness is the most terrible poverty.”  Jesus came to set us free from all kinds of poverty and call us to be in community with other people – to “do life” with them, to love and be loved!

The old adage says laughter is the best medicine, but how much does laughter actually affect one’s wellbeing?

I read with interest recently when the Herald Sun reported the visit of “humour therapists” to nursing home residents with dementia.

“Four hundred residents from 36 nursing homes took part in the SMILE study led by University of NSW researchers who wanted to see if humour had an effect on people with dementia in terms of their mood, agitation levels, behaviour and social engagement.The researchers worked with ‘humour therapist’ Jean-Paul Bell, who co-founded the Humour Foundation and works as a ‘clown doctor’ cheering up patients in children’s hospitals.”

Lead researcher Dr Lee-Fay Low said residents who received humour therapy showed a 20 per cent reduction in agitated behaviour such as aggression, wandering, screaming and repetitive behaviour. Other patients who had not spoken for some time started to utter a few words and eventually exchanged conversation.

The results of the humour therapy show that laughter really could be the best medicine when it comes to treating older people with dementia.

It doesn’t stop there. If you google “Laughter is the best medicine”, you’ll come up with over 5 million results many of which (and no I haven’t read them all) show the positive impact of real laughter on our health and well being. We all know from firsthand experience how much better we feel after a good belly laugh.

What we know to be scientifically true today the Bible spoke of 3,000 years ago when King Solomon wrote, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

This principle was recorded powerfully in the 1984 book and movie, “Anatomy of an illness” – the famous story recounting Norman Cousins’ partnership with his doctors in overcoming a crippling and supposedly irreversible degenerative spinal disease. When he was in pain he would watch Marx Brothers comedy movies. He says, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”

Medical science has proven that those with a happy attitude to life:

  • Think more clearly
  • Work more effectively
  • Enjoy their leisure time
  • Get on better with others
  • Are generally healthier
  • Have an enhanced memory, and
  • Their sense organs perform to their maximum efficiency.

Joy releases endorphins into the blood stream. These “natural drugs” are more powerful than morphine. They give a natural high, reduce pain, relieve tension and aid in the healing process.

It’s been estimated that at least two-thirds of those who visit doctors do so because of stress-related symptoms. In fact stress and other psychosomatic problems (worry, fear, depression etc) are at the root of about 90% of all sickness.

With this in mind it is a timely reminder that laughter truly is the best medicine.

Why not plan a good belly-laugh session today.