Rely on instinct, just ask the question

QUESTION TIME: ACU teaching students Eden Britnell and Connor Kent take a few minutes to check in on each other. Picture: Kate Healy
QUESTION TIME: ACU teaching students Eden Britnell and Connor Kent take a few minutes to check in on each other. Picture: Kate Healy

TRUST your instincts and ask the question is what Australian Catholic University’s Aquinas mentors are encouraging students in a bid to break down mental health stigmas.

Th campus student centre was decorated with trademark R U OK Day bright yellow on Thursday with fun activities like giant Jenga, mural painting, a photo booth and smoothie bike for some fun. But the underlying message was vital: feeling connected.

ACU psychologist and student counsellor Shannon Dunn is passionate about early intervention. She hoped helping students find coping skills and the confidence to have tough conversations with their loved ones, colleagues and friends, would help gradually create strategies for like – and possibly to save a life.

Ms Thompson said university students fit right into the high-risk age group of 16 to 25-year-olds for experiencing their first panic attack.

Smoothie ride, Shon Dunn

She said it was vital to equip students to trust their instincts in recognising the signs in each other and step in to ask the question – are you okay – then, to help find the right support.

“Often students do come to awareness courses I run and think it will be good for them to know professionally, or to look good on their curriculum vitae, but they instead learn a lot about themselves,” Ms Thompson said.

“Students are under immense pressure: financially trying to fit in work; a constellation of work placements, assignments and exams; travel for placements; plus exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and staying connected with friends.

“It is something we all need to balance through life.”

Ms Thompson said depression and anxiety were the major issues she found in the young people she saw in student counselling.

This was why Ms Thompson said it was crucial for students to feel comfortable in asking the question and having awareness of themselves and others.

Making smoothies on bikes or tackling giant Jenga was a way to feel engaged and part of the student community. Ms Thompson wanted all students to feel they could always ask for help.

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