The manager of a university counselling service has a message for students and members of the public “it’s OK if you have something going on in your life, and its OK to get help”.
La Trobe campus manager of student counselling Jim Young’s comments came as the university and the Bendigo Student Association marked R U OK? Day today.
“The event is kind of like a mini-expo helping students know where they can connect and the kind of services they can link up with,” Mr Young said.
As well as stalls manned by representatives from local support services and an expert panel talking about mental health, students could find food, massages and puppies.
The puppies were supplied by mobile animal farm Animals 2U and proved to be the most popular feature at the event.
“Animals are very therapeutic. Most people love them and we know from research that having pets reduces stress. It’s actually a way of helping ourselves,” Mr Young said.
“I guess too that animals love us unconditionally, don’t they?
“We try to have the animals at this event most years and we find students love it.”
Mr Young said university students had higher rates of distress and mental health problems compared to the general population.
Many of the students the campus counselling service saw were dealing with high levels of stress, anxiety, depression or relationship problems.
“So its a lot of the mental health kind of stuff that we are supporting those students with,” Mr Young said.
The event and wider R U OK Day discussions were a way to normalise the idea that everyone faced stress full or distressing things from time to time, he said.
“We are encouraging people to check in on their mates … make sure they are OK, listen to them if there is something happening and then point them in the right direction for resources and support.”
BSA president Andrew Mair echoed those sentiments, saying many students did not feel comfortable asking people if they were OK, or often found themselves distracted by assignments, grades or new social environments.
Yet, often all that was needed was a gentle push. So holding an event in the Bendigo campus social hub would help push important conversations to the front of people’s minds, he said.