Samantha is a Study Melbourne Ambassador. Study Melbourne has 22 international student and alumni ambassadors for 2018. During their time as ambassadors, they regularly share insights and experiences to help international students have a great experience while studying here in Victoria. Check out our Facebook, Instagram and website for their wonderful stories!
by Samantha Lim
October - Victorian Mental Health Month
October marks Victorian Mental Health Month. As an ambassador and an individual who is part of the international student community, it’s a good opportunity to raise awareness about mental health.
On 12 October, just two days after National Mental Health Day, I volunteered for a fundraising event that supports youth mental health in Victoria called Hats for Hope. The event, organised by Michelle Stevenson, is an annual fashion fundraiser that showcases Arlene Bennett’s private collection of vintage Christian Dior hats. Thanks to the fantastic work of the organisers and those who work behind the scenes, Hats for Hope managed to raise over $100,000 this year and all the proceeds go to youth suicide prevention research at Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
Participating in this volunteering opportunity made me realise we’ve got to do more to help. To coincide with National Mental Health Day, I made a promise via The Promise Wall to lead our student community to help reduce youth suicide cases in Victoria by taking action. Here are a few ways you can help and be more mindful of those around you:
Bullying and cyberbullying
Bullying and cyberbullying have been reported as one of the leading causes of youth depression. Bullying can happen to anyone and can have a serious impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Beyondblue has summarised the facts you need to know about bullying and cyberbullying and I strongly suggest you have a read.
Victoria Police encourage students to go into their local police station to have a chat if they feel they are or know of someone being bullied. I also recommend taking a look at this tool created by Headspace called reword that aims to prevent online abusive behaviour.
Something to be mindful of are memes. Don’t get me wrong, I love memes! Just like most millennials, I feed on them day and night just for laughs. However, I have personally come across viral memes that made fun of mental health disorders. Please be mindful what you share or like on yoursocial media pages because there will be people who follow you that who may experience emotional distress when they are exposed to such images that make fun of their condition.
Active listening or active talking
Think of a time you told someone that you understood how they felt when they were feeling a bit down. Remember that “no, you don’t!” response you got followed by a moment of awkward silence? Knowing is a lot different to feeling. It takes years of extensive training before professional practitioners are able to use ‘talking therapy’ to help someone.
If you are speaking to someone experiencing distress or feeling down, be an active listener instead of an active talker. Being a listener is a good way to support them as it may help them to feel better that they have been able to express their emotions, let it out and look at the problem from a different perspective. Remember, what you see on the outside is just the tip of an iceberg! It is always a good idea to remind them to seek professional help.
Always bear in mind that some people are more vulnerable than others. It might sound like a cliché but I want to emphasise you can make a difference in someone’s life.
Mental health awareness campaigns
There are many awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues. Although these campaigns deserve our attention, I feel that campaigns alone, even when they are done right, cannot resolve issues related to youth mental health and this is why more research is needed.
From my perspective, many awareness campaigns fall behind because they recycle the same messages that people have become so familiar with and eventually, unmoved by. Also, a number of awareness campaigns fail to tailor their message to specific demographics who are at risk.
I challenge you to get involved in the conversation, raise awareness and help those around you to help alleviate youth mental health problems in Victoria.
About the author
Samantha arrived in Melbourne on a scholarship and is an optimistic and outgoing person who loves public speaking and volunteering with various organisations. Samantha is looking forward to giving back to the state that means so much to her and enriching the lives of other students. Meet all the Study Melbourne Student Ambassadors.