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Communities are accepting the challenge to act, belong and commit

Created Wednesday, 18 January 2017 in News
Across Western Australia, communities are responding to the message of the Act-Belong-Commit campaign. For Mental Health Week last October, a number of organisations and schools incorporated the campaign message in various ways.

One such organisation is Eastern Goldfields College in Kalgoorlie. Suzanne Rushton, Head of Student Services, explains how the secondary college is trying to “develop resilient and positive mental health behaviours in our students, and staff.” The school “decided to participate in a whole-school movement. We chose that for every day of the week we would focus on a different aspect that would promote the Act-Belong-Commit message.”

The week was comprised of a sports day, where students could play different games, including a staff-versus-students’ tug-of-war, and a music day featuring teachers DJing and rapping. A pet day saw students voting on which staff looked most like their pets from photos, and a therapy dog visit the school. “It was lovely how the students, considering that they are all 16 to 18 years old, were just so excited about having a dog at the school,” Suzanne says.

Other events included a “try new things” series of workshops, based on the advice that having the courage to try a new activity in a safe environment can develop social connections. Students and staff tried new activities including Tai Chi, sushi making, chess, martial arts and massage. Finally, a bake sale day, which was run by the student council, raised funds which have been donated to the Act-Belong-Commit campaign.

Suzanne explains that the week was met with enthusiasm by the school community, and the activities have had ongoing effects. “Our over-arching goal was to raise awareness of mental health issues, and we wanted to see if the week had worked to deliver this message. We surveyed the students to see if they knew where to go to get support, and if they had a framework to identify mental health concerns. The satisfying results were that 96% knew where to access support from either local Mental Health agencies such as Headspace, or from helplines or cyber support. That comforted us that the messages had worked.”

She says that the school has also made some naturally occurring changes as a result of the week, “we have kept things for our students, small things like having board games, chess and chequers which are always out all the time now. Something small like that has had a big impact — the kids are off their phones and playing chess and talking to each other face-to-face. We are also offering more strategic to support to staff like offering a 20-minute massage once a week. The most important thing for us going forward is formulating what worked well, and how we can embed that within best practice.”

Wesfarmers Chemicals Energy and Fertilisers (WesCEF) are another organisation who based their Mental Health Week activities around the Act-Belong-Commit campaign, with the aim of reducing the stigma attached to mental health and to get people talking about their own mental wellbeing. The week was designed to raise awareness, with the information provided to employees equipping them with the confidence to start having their own conversations about mental health.

Lisa Moore, Senior Health and Safety Advisor for WesCEF explains that Mental Health Week provided a great avenue to reduce the stigma attached to mental health, and encouraged people to have conversations at work with management and peers. “WesCEF cares about its employees as a whole, just as we want everyone to work safely and not injure themselves, we are also focused on ensuring our employees are mentally healthy,” she says.

On “Wear Blue Wednesday” the company held a morning tea and employees were encouraged to come to work wearing blue for a gold coin donation and to purchase a cupcake for charity. The funds raised were donated to Mentally Healthy WA.

The strong community engagement with the campaign is extremely rewarding, explains Sarah Graham from Act-Belong-Commit. “It’s really great to see schools and workplaces get on board during Mental Health Week and pro-actively do things to build mental health within their own communities.” The funds raised will be put to good use, helping to “expand the reach of campaign activities and spread the word that keeping mentally healthy is just as important as physically healthy,” she says.

Image Credit: Students at Eastern Goldfields College students serve customers at their bake sale day.
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