By Renee Wood
Today the community’s being asked to turn to loved ones, friends, colleagues and ask an important question – R U OK?
September 9 marks R U OK day, raising awareness for suicide prevention while also being a driver for starting supportive conversations.
It’s also an important day within schools as mental health and wellbeing remains at the forefront of remote learning discussions.
Mater Christi College Principal Maria Haggett said it’s a vital topic for the College and its encouraging students to open up to see if they ‘really’ are ok.
“In this area with the storms and the lockdown, there’s this kind of sense of ‘she’ll be right’ and I think we have to be really careful about that. We have to give people an opportunity to articulate how they’re actually feeling,” Ms Haggett said.
It comes as the need for mental health support rises across Victorian schools as lockdowns continue.
“Our psychologists are flat out and they’re doing a fabulous job, but we are seeing a waiting list for our psychologists
and they are triaging and prioritizing the most severe cases and we’re working with parents as much as we can who,” Ms Haggett said.
“They’re (parents) going to their GPs to get a mental health plan for their daughter, but there’s a three month wait for a private psychologist in some areas.
“We’re trying to hold our students in the best frame of mind that we can, but it is tough for them and tough for staff as well.”
Mater Christi College School Captain Cassidy Ede said it’s the uncertainty and not knowing what’s ahead that worries students the most.
“You begin to think that you’re in the clear and getting back to normal and then everything changes,” Miss Ede said.
“Not knowing exactly when this is all going to be over or when we can go back to school creates a bit of stress and anxiety for people because you just don’t know what’s going to happen and everything can change so quickly.”
It’s the conversations, albeit virtually, that are helping her and her friends get through it.
“We know what each other are going through we’re able to give each other advice and just be there for each other. So we’ll zoom and have a catch up and just talk.”
Principal Haggett said looking at mental health as we do physical health will help to understand when you need some assistance.
“We accept we have to look after our physical health by eating well, by walking by running, so we need to think about our mental health like that too. Let’s not wait until we’re really mentally unfit to do something, lets be proactive,” Ms Haggett said.
“Find something that you can do every day that will lift your spirits. That might be a walk, it might be listening to music, it might be creating something, it depends on what you really love. We’ve got to find in each day something that brings us a little bit of joy.”
There’s hope by taking action and asking ‘are you really okay’ today will drive the sentiment past the 24 hour cycle to ensure supportive conversations remain top priority.
“We definitely need to check in on each other more than once a year, it’s very important. Even doing little things just like a message or put together a little care package for your close friends and send it in the mail,” Miss Ede said.
“It’s definitely something we need to be doing all year round, not just on this one day.”