Why is retail therapy allowed when spiritual therapy Is not?

Practising religion can be an effective way to cope in difficult circumstances (Bigstock)

Spiritual wellbeing has been largely ignored in public discourse about Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, writes Joanna Waloszek. Source: Melbourne Catholic.

As we approach tomorrow's World Mental Health Day, Melburnians will still be in a state of lockdown. It will be our tenth consecutive week of strict restrictions in our five kilometre bubble in our second wave.

The negative impact of the pandemic on mental health cannot be denied. However, the impact on spiritual wellbeing, a key dimension of a person’s “quality of life” according to the World Health Organisation, has been largely ignored in public discourse.

For many, religion in particular is used as a refuge for hope, meaning, comfort and an effective way to cope in difficult circumstances. With almost 60 per cent of Victorians affiliating themselves with a religion, the importance of spiritual wellbeing should not be ignored.

With restrictions only eased momentarily for a few weeks, many people have not been able to access their place of worship since restrictions began in March.

Regardless of your beliefs, the inequality of the rules has been concerning.

According to the roadmap, during “Step 3” we will all be able to enjoy hairdressing and retail stores. Shopping centres will be open with density limits in place but the doors of places of worship – including large cathedrals, temples and mosques – will only open for private household bubbles.

Up to 10 people plus a faith leader will be able to gather outdoors nearby – a stark difference to the 50 person outdoor and 20 person indoor cap afforded to restaurants. Further restrictions are in place on ceremonies at the heart of faith-based practice.

The question is, can we justify open access to mass retail therapy while depriving those in need of spiritual therapy?

Joanna Waloszek is a researcher in psychology, focusing on aged care and mental health. Together with Ewa Chlipala, she began the online petition Equality for Victoria’s People of Faith.


Retail therapy alone cannot save us: A case for spiritual wellbeing (Melbourne Catholic

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