Words by: Georgina Bell, Mental Health and Wellbeing Student Ambassador
“Are you ok?” This simple question can help make a difference to someone’s life.
You may have noticed a lot of stories and conversations in the media recently about the impacts of mental illness on young Australians. According to the ABS, one in four young Australians aged between 16-24 currently has a mental health condition . Sadly, suicide is the leading cause of death within this age group, and kills more young Australians than skin cancer and the national road toll . These statistics are a great cause for concern, but there is a growing nationwide movement designed to help address the factors that may lead to mental illness and suicide among young people.
R U OK? Day is one successful part of this growing movement. It was founded by Gavin Larkin, in honour of his father who died by suicide. Larkin’s aim was to protect other families from the pain his endured.
R U OK? is a nationwide, not for profit organisation. Their mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone in need of help. One simple way we can encourage this meaningful connection with each other is to ask a very simple but powerful question, “Are you okay?”.
Talking about feelings and expressing thoughts to your peers can help those people who may feel isolated and disconnected. Family, friends, colleagues even peers can provide the support needed for these conversations. One of the key messages of R U OK? Day is that anyone has the ability to provide support to their community. This is one of the main reasons that R U OK? @ Western is developed and delivered by Western Sydney students for Western Sydney students, as it highlights that all members of the community have a role to play in taking care of each other, and you don’t need to be an expert to do it!
“The health and wellbeing of our students is a core priority for the University. Having R U OK? @ Western coordinated by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Student Ambassadors, with the support of Health Promotion students and additional student volunteers reinforces our student centred approach and strengthens our community. We are proud to support the R U OK? @ Western event and hope the day encourages conversation amongst peers, creating a safe and supportive network for students while reducing the stigma surrounding mental health”, Michael Burgess, Chief Student Experience Officer.
As in previous years, Western Sydney University has joined forces with R U OK? to host an event on seven of our campuses in support of R U OK? Day. Events will be delivered early, providing our community opportunities to learn skills and support conversations on RU OK? Day. This year Western Sydney University has the honour of being one of only four official national university partners of the R U OK? organisation.
“It’s great to have Western Sydney University to come on as official partner for university activations; we have worked closely for a number of years and it’s great to see students getting behind the messages of RUOK? and being the drivers of meaningful conversations on campus. Western Sydney University’s year-round support for health and wellbeing is in line with our ruok365 promotion, which reinforces the need to connect with family, friends and peers throughout the year,” Brendan Maher R U OK? CEO.
This year’s R U OK? @ Western will feature a great program that includes FREE healthy lunch for staff and student’s courtesy of Western Food Services and Campus Life, as well as fun student developed and student led activities to demonstrate how mindfulness can help you de-stress and connect with your peers and even yourself.
The 2017 themes of Disconnect and Reconnect emphasise the key message of R U OK? Day, which is to encourage us to participate in meaningful conversations by being attentive and practicing active listening.
The activities were designed by Mental Health and Wellbeing Student Ambassadors (Zahraa Ahadzada, Charlotte Woodland, Alice Leung and Thiveya Theivendran). The activities address the technological barriers to meaningful connection. The Disconnect activity aims to encourage students to become aware of their dependence on technology, particularly mobile phone use. The Reconnect activity aims to encourage meaningful connections between people through a fun colour association technique to help students reconnect with each other.
And finally, we’re bringing back our famous Chocolate Mindfulness activity, which encourages individuals to become present and mindful in their own time and to reconnect with their own thoughts and feelings. Try this activity in your own time by visiting the following link; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUFu8BGLTlw
Come to one of our events on campus, grab a FREE healthy lunch and join Health Promotion students and Volunteer Students in starting a conversation at Western!
We encourage all to take the opportunity to connect with us by joining our Western Sydney U – Mental Health and Wellbeing Facebook group
If you have concerns about your mental health or wellbeing, or the wellbeing of another student, please contact Student Support Services; 02 9852 5199; Email: email@example.com
For more information on R U OK? Day, visit: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ruokday
If you would like to get involved with the Mental health and Wellbeing Student Ambassador Program, contact Rowena Saheb, Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotions Coordinator: R.Saheb@westernsydney.edu.au or Erin Rutherford, Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotions Support Officer: E.Rutherford@westernsydney.edu.au
 Australian Bureau of Statistics national survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing