Awareness week supports students’ mental health

HARLLY A LEWIS

This week staff and students from Griffith University are taking part in the university’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Week, to encourage conversation and awareness about mental health issues.

Students discussing mental health issues

Students around the country have been under added pressure this year thanks to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. Photo: Courtesy Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash

 

The week’s events intentionally coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK?Day, both of which take place on Thursday September 10.

Students suffer their own stresses and pressure, but the closure of university campuses around the country earlier this year as a result of COVID-19 put a new level of pressure on both staff and students.

The Griffith University Online Mental Health and Wellness Centre are working with the Griffith University Student Guild to offer both in person and online activities focused on mindfulness and the destigmatisation of mental health over the course of the week from September 7 to 11.

Griffith University Mental Health and Wellbeing Week project manager Tahnee Motti said students and staff were consulted through a survey as to what activities would help them the most.

“So, we’ve really approached it with that public health lens where rather than just coordinating a bunch of events that we think will improve people’s mental health, we have actually sought the advice of the community to see what actually is impacting everyone,” Ms Motti said.

Ms Motti said the week offered activities that focused on physical wellbeing and health, such as yoga and desk exercises, which were important as not everyone had the time to go outside to exercise.

“With the desk exercises, for example, we’ve run those because we’ve identified that people with the work from home life at the moment, people aren’t really leaving their desks,” she said.

R U OK?Day

Griffith University’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Week was timed to coincide with R U OK?Day this Thursday. Photo: Courtesy R U OK?Day

 

Students at the Gold Coast campus will be treated to a series of onsite activities including live music, stalls, free food, and movie nights run by the Griffith University Gold Coast Student Guild, all centred around the 2020 R U OK?Day theme of ‘There’s More to Say After R U OK?’.

Ms Motti said the goal of the events was to let people know about the support services that were available to them at any time, whether they were in crisis or not.

“We’ve tried to utilise as many of the free Griffith services as we possibly can so that people are bringing awareness to those supporting services, so that they know [they are available] even after this week is gone,” she said.

Ms Motti said there was also a story writing competition being run in conjunction with Griffith Equality and Our Griffith, which encouraged students to write about the people who have supported them throughout their lives.

She said it was important to promote not only activity but also creativity.

“We really wanted to try and cover absolutely everything that everyone wanted and that included creative things as well,” Ms Motti said.

Many of the week’s activities also followed the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, which is ‘working together to prevent suicide’.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention said in a statement that the theme was important because it makes the issue a community issue.

“We all have a role to play and together we can collectively address the challenges presented by suicidal behaviour in society today,” the statement said.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown period earlier this year, many of Griffith University’s courses have shifted to online offerings, which some students have found to be a difficult and frustrating experience.

Mitch Wallis

Mental Health and Wellbeing Week will also feature guest speakers such as mental health advocate Mitch Wallis. Photo: Courtesy Tahnee Motti/Mitch Wallis

 

Griffith University third year Bachelor of Arts student Catherine Lunn said she found online learning more difficult than on-campus study for several reasons.

“It’s certainly been difficult [as] I’ve never really done online study before,” Ms Lunn said.

“I know that’s never really been my sort of thing, and so with lockdown and all that, I’ve had to adapt to it,” she said.

“Procrastination can really get in the way and, you know, you lose a lot of motivation to do stuff.”

Griffith University third year Bachelor of Arts student Vanessa Morris said events like those offered during the university’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Week could help reduce the stigma of not only having a mental illness, but also the stigma of seeking help.

“Having these kinds of weeks and putting focus on these issues is really important, especially for people that feel they are ostracised because of it and to make them realise that it’s okay and that they’re not alone,” Ms Morris said.

Griffith University students can contact the Griffith Counselling and Wellbeing Service for help on (07) 3735 7299 or contact the Griffith Mental Wellbeing Support Line on 1300 785 442 for 24-hour support.

Members of the public can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.

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