Home' Aurora : Aurora April 2013 Contents WITH TANYA RUSSELL
BY EMMA BLACKFORD
Closing the Gap
BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
QI have been on my own for over
10 years and will be celebrating
my 70th birthday soon. Instead
of feeling good about this, I have
been feeling increasingly lonely and
worried about my future and health. I
don't want to burden my children with
my problems as I really don't have
anything to complain about. I try to
think positive thoughts but this is not
helping. What am I doing wrong and
why can't I just 'snap out of it'?
AOur lives are constantly changing
and with change, many
opportunities and challenges
arise. It depends on how you perceive
your situation at any given time as to
how you respond and feel. For example,
you wonder what you are doing wrongly
and question why you can't 'snap out of
it'. How does it make you feel when you
think these thoughts? I imagine that these
thoughts are certainly not helping you to
But is thinking 'positively' enough?
Positive affirmations can go a long way in
making us feel better about a situation,
but we psychologists tend to focus on
'helpful' thinking instead of purely 'positive'
thinking. So when you are worrying, feeling
lonely or sad, positive thinking can result
in thoughts such as, "I'll be ok, everything
is fine" but is this realistic? Helpful thinking
encourages you to explore alternatives
which don't always make you instantly
happy, but help you move forward in a
positive way. So a helpful thought at times
of loneliness could be, "I've been feeling
lonely for a long time now but today I will
make an effort to think of at least one way
to improve my loneliness." By thinking
something along these lines, you don't
necessarily stop a worrying or negative
thought, but you are creating choices
about how to respond to this thought,
rather than dwelling on it.
Perhaps ask yourself why you are lonely.
What is it you feel you need and are
missing at this stage of your life? If you can
identify this, it will be easier to work out
options (using helpful thinking of course).
What would make you feel less lonely?
Companionship with your peers? Sharing
interests and activities with like minded
people? Stimulating conversation? Is there
something stopping you from engaging
in activities outside your home? What
can you do to help overcome this feeling
of loneliness? Think of small actions you
could take towards change.
As we grow older, we can expect
unique life challenges including onset of
physical illness, personal loss and some
sadness due to adversity. These, and
other challenges such as chronic pain,
medication side effects, social isolation,
change in living arrangements, admission
to hospital and particular anniversaries,
present as risk factors for depression.
In saying that, depression should not
be considered a 'normal' part of ageing
and if you have concerns that you are
experiencing more than loneliness and
sadness, speak to a professional about
your concerns. For further information
about mental health, you can read
Older People and Depression, a booklet
available on the Beyond Blue website.
Registered psychologist Tanya Russell
is CatholicCare's Counselling Team
Leader. Each month Tanya will respond
on a variety of issues. The advice
provided is general in nature and does
not replace ongoing support and advice
from your health professional. To talk
to someone about counselling support,
P 4979 1172. Email your question to
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to
CareTalk PO Box 756 Newcastle 2300.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people die 10-17 years
younger than other Australians.
Indigenous children are dying at more
than double the rate of non-Indigenous
children and many Indigenous people
suffer chronic diseases which are
entirely preventable and have virtually
been eliminated in the non-Indigenous
These statistics are startling and it
beggars belief that they could be
representative of our country in the
year 2013. It's these alarming statistics
however, which have organisations
such as CatholicCare working with all
Australian governments for a cross
community effort towards change.
The goal is to achieve Indigenous
health equality within 25 years and
'close the gap'. An achievable goal?
CatholicCare's Helga Smit gives us
reason to believe we're "on the right
In March CatholicCare took part in
Australia's largest ever Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander health campaign,
National Close the Gap day. More than
900 events were held nationwide in
an effort to raise awareness of what's
been described as a "health crisis you'd
associate with an impoverished nation...
happening right here in our own backyard"
and ultimately incite change.
A national integrated Closing the Gap
strategy was agreed to in 2008 by the
Council of Australian Governments
with the aim of achieving six Closing
the Gap targets relating to Indigenous
life expectancy, infant mortality, early
childhood development, education and
Nationwide, access to primary healthcare
remains extremely poor.
Manager of CatholicCare's Taree Child and
Family centre, Helga Smit, acknowledges
that "Change will take time" but is praising
the local efforts of a free Child and Family
Health Clinic in Taree as a sign that
change is happening and we're headed in
the right direction.
"In Taree, we're seeing more families
benefiting from a free Child and Family
Health Nurse Clinic which I think indicates
that as a community, we're on the right
track," Ms Smit said.
The health initiative is a partnership
between Hunter New England Health,
CatholicCare and Biripi Aboriginal Medical
Centre which facilitates maintenance
of the high immunisation rates for the
area and ensures children are meeting
"The clinic aims to reduce the gap in
health and well-being between Aboriginal
and non-Aboriginal women and their
children aged 0-5 years and improve
opportunities and outcomes for Aboriginal
Children in Taree," Ms Smit said.
The clinic provides immunisation,
assessment of infants' growth and
development, assistance with infant
feeding, assistance with settling and
sleeping issues and provision of education
and support to enhance positive and
"Together with CatholicCare's Brighter
Futures program, which aims to give
vulnerable families the best start in life by
focusing on their existing strengths, there's
lots of positive change taking place," she
Ms Smit believes ongoing and culturally
appropriate collaboration and respectful
practice is vital in achieving these targets.
"The Closing the Gap strategy highlights
that governments have acknowledged
that more needs to be done, and working
in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people is key to make sure
they're empowered, supported and part of
the process," she said.
"Closing the gap will take time and will take
a sustained effort and commitment but we
are getting there. We are closing the gap
because as a nation, we have to."
The Child and Family Health Nurse
Clinic services are free and are for
Aboriginal children 0-5 years and their
families. Bookings are not essential.
Families can drop in at CatholicCare's
Child and Family Services office, 148
Victoria Rd, TAREE, NSW between
10am and 1pm Thursdays.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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