A tonic against loneliness: Friends, food and fun!

Currently 3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Having a mental illness can be an incredibly isolating experience. The stigma surrounding mental illness can prevent people from opening up about their struggles. A recent article in the Southern Cross noted that church communities are often ill-informed and ill-equipped to deal with people with mental illnesses. With mental illness on the rise, churches need to equip themselves with the knowledge and understanding that mental illness is a disease, not a sin, and begin to implement strategies to care for those in their communities who suffer from this terrible disease.

Riverwood Lunch and Leisure Club, a ministry run by Riverwood-Punchbowl Anglican Church, is seeking to break the cycle of stigma and isolation one lunch at a time. A weekly affordable lunch and leisure activity provides a safe place for people with severe mental illnesses to build friendships with others who have similar struggles. The Riverwood Lunch and Leisure Club also connects their members with information and resources from other services for mentally ill people run in Riverwood. So far this year the club has visited national parks, beaches, the local bowling club as well as run many great activities in the church hall.

For people like Josh (name changed) the club provides greatly needed friendship and support. Riverwood Lunch and Leisure recently sent through this story:

Josh is aged in his late forties and is a long-time member of the Lunch & Leisure Club. Josh was diagnosed with Schizophrenia Affective Disorder at the age of 17 and he comes from a loving and supportive family. He has an interest in art and computers and is a keen footy fan. On first appearance, Josh presents well and seems as though his life is in order. On closer inspection Josh is sometimes confused and must ensure he keeps to a structured routine, avoids any stressful situations and has set healthy boundaries where he lives in bedsit accommodation. Attending the group is one of the highlights of his week as Josh often feels lonely. Belonging to the group gives Josh the opportunity to socialise and have some fun and a laugh in a safe environment. It is evident that Josh is growing more confident and is always on hand to assist when needed. He often arrives early to group to assist with setting up the day’s activity, set up the Wii, games, karaoke and call the bingo games. The emotional and social support of Lunch & Leisure provides an opportunity for Josh to manage stress, boost confidence and improve his overall wellbeing.

Riverwood Lunch and Leisure provides wonderful support and friendship to people like Josh. Please pray that the people attending the lunches will know God’s love and friendship. Please pray for strength and encouragement for the leaders and volunteers.

To support the work of Riverwood Lunch and Leisure by giving a tax deductible gift please visit the project page here.

Related project: Lunch and Leisure Club - Riverwood-Punchbowl Anglican Church