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Are we there yet?

11 December 2020 Blog
Mental health
Chief Executive Officer of St John of God Burwood and Richmond Hospitals Colman O'Driscoll shares his thoughts as he reflects on 2020 and looks forward to the new year.

Are we there yet? 2021 that is. It’s probably a sentiment that most of us can relate to as we approach the end 2020. A year that started under the cloud of the most disastrous bushfire season in living memory.

As that threat eased another soon emerged.

I remember in January, as much welcomed rain and the heroic efforts of so many people gave us hope that the months upon months of raging bushfires would soon be under control, we started to hear news of a new virus and people were getting a little concerned. Within a couple of months the country, and much of the world, had come to a standstill. Our hopes that 2020 was looking up, were quickly dashed.

We have all talked this year about the impact isolation and loss of physical connection has had - we perhaps value some of those things a little more as a result. We’ve also heard and read lots about resilience and how we need to build it. I do find that curious.

We may be surprised to realise that as people we are pretty resilient after all, especially when we stay connected to each other. Because we are made to be connected to each other. Our response to having that physical connection abruptly taken away shows just how true it is and how we quickly adapt to find other ways to stay together. What I think we may also have begun to realise is that being resilient is not something we can always do alone. It’s not something we can learn from a book, so to speak. Resilience stems from our connections to the people around us, our families, our friends, our teams and the people we work with – we build our resilience through those people.

Australia has responded so well to this pandemic and we are envy of the world. While things have improved and many of the restrictions have eased here, it is easy to lose sight that beyond our borders, the situation continues to deteriorate. For at least 25% of Australians, who like me, are originally from another country, this contrast is very much front of mind. While being an island nation has helped us control COVID-19, many of us will remain physically distant from family and friends for some time to come. Having been unable to be there for important moments like funerals, weddings or the arrival of the newest member of family, Christmas will be a little tougher for some Australians this year.

I read a little Dr Seuss these days – as I’m sure anybody with younger kids will understand. Such beautiful thought provoking and silly stories that often linger in your mind. Some of those stories have got me thinking about what we have learned as we reflect on of 2020 and look to the new year.

I’d like to think that we have learned to value of the time we spend together, just being together. Because as the great Dr Seuss puts it ‘sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory’.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could recognise valuable moments before they are memories? Maybe 2020 can teach us that.

Colman ODriscoll
Colman O'Driscoll - Chief Executive Officer

Colman is the Chief Executive Officer of St John of God Burwood and Richmond Hospitals providing specialist hospital and community based mental health care in Sydney, NSW. He is a mental health clinician with over 20 years’ experience across the health system in senior leadership roles including as a Chief of Staff in the NSW Government.