Tomorrow is R U OK? Day and Griffith University is taking the opportunity to create a safe space for its students to start a conversation about mental health.
R U OK? Day is a national movement with the goal of preventing suicide through encouraging people to start a conversation with the people around them about mental health.
R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton said in a statement this week that what people say, what people do, and what’s going on in people’s lives can provide signs as to whether they need support.
“We know the majority of Australians believe talking to someone who’s struggling can make a difference,” Ms Newton said in the statement.
“But what we’re hearing, is that people aren’t sure when is the right time to have an R U OK? conversation,” she said in the statement.
“You might spot a loved one is having unusual mood swings, changes in sleep, or a mate might be withdrawing from social situations, like not turning up to sport training.”
Griffith Student Guild in partnership with Griffith Health have arranged several activities to mark the day for students, including face-painting, photo booths, and meditation sessions to encourage all student to take a moment to check in with themselves.
The R U OK? Day events begin at 11 am on Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus.
Griffith University wellness coordinator Brittany Golding said the event coincided with the university’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Week, which has events happening across all five campuses.
“Each campus has dedicated a day, and the Gold Coast campus [day] is this Thursday, which is in conjunction with R U OK? Day, so we are doing a dual event between Griffith Health and the Student Guild,” Ms Golding said.
“Especially right now, students are so caught up in the immediate goal, and that’s study, and are just going day to day, not looking at the big picture,” she said.
“We just want them to take the time to stop and check themselves and do a self-assessment… maybe even taking the time to check on their friends, because you might be able to help them more than they can help themselves at the time.”
“The biggest thing is just taking a minute, even if it’s five minutes, just stopping, breathing, and essentially just checking in with yourself is the biggest thing we are trying to push.”
In 2017, Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, released a study that said one in four students between the ages of 15 and 24 experienced mental ill-health in any given year.
Orygen’s principal adviser for government relations and policy, Vivienne Brown, said higher levels of students were experiencing high levels of stress and mental health issues, which could stem from a number of reasons.
“There are still high levels of stigma associated with mental health issues, and particularly from some different student cohorts and areas of study,” Ms Brown said.
“Students might feel it could have a detrimental impact on their careers pathways as well, so I think it is very important universities are creating environments where they are talking about mental health promotion,” she said.
“Part of it is being able to identify where the support is both on campus and off.”
“Don’t be afraid to go out and reach for that support.”
Student volunteer and wellness warrior Sarah McDonald said days like R U OK? Day were particularly important for Griffith University Student Guild to get involved with to start the conversation about mental health.
“Creating the whole atmosphere that we will on Thursday is going to be really important to break the stigma around mental health, and make it so everyone is on the same page and can check up on each other,” Ms McDonald said.
“As a volunteer, I am really excited to be involved in such a positive movement,” she said.
“A lot of people continue to benefit from our constant engagement with students and our peers… because we are students too.”
Griffith University’s Student Guild will also be running Keep in Touch this Friday, in support of R U OK? Day.
The event is a social touch football competition for students to take part in, which runs from 9 am until 2 pm.
Ms Golding said Keep in Touch was a great way to remind people to keep the conversation going for more than just one day, and to regularly check in with each other.
“If we can get students to come on out, it can go 10 times more amazingly, and then that’s a great way for us to reach out to them… so we can start the conversation,” she said.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more information about R U OK? Day, visit www.ruok.org.au.