Over the last number of years, November has become mental health month and each year sees the emergence of new initiatives surrounding mental wellbeing and illness. PleaseTalk and their partners have launched the annual ‘’Chats for Change’’ to encourage students to talk about their mental health. Recent studies have shown a 41% increase in third level students seeking counselling or in other words beginning to talk.
PleaseTalk is an Irish, student-led mental health movement that urges students to talk about mental health, and understand how talking is a strength rather than a weakness. They promote the help available to those who are struggling while at college, and direct them to a place where they can get help. They promote their message by working with the various support networks within a college, such as chaplains, counsellors’ etc.
PleaseTalk, St. Patrick’s Hospital Mental Health Services and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched their annual ‘Chats for Change’ campaign on the 7th of November nationwide, to encourage students to talk about their mental health. In collaboration with Robert Roberts tea, thousands of ‘’chats for change’’ packs have been distributed across campuses throughout Ireland in an attempt to ignite conversation among students about mental health. The packs contain information about various support services that students can discuss over a cup of tea.
While this is one of many fantastic initiatives taken about mental health, there’s still a long way to go. Recent research conducted by AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) showed a 41% increase in students seeking counselling, and that staff cutbacks can result in a 6-month waiting list for students to see a counsellor.
Ahead of the campaign launch PleaseTalk campaign coordinator Treasa Hannifey said “we at PleaseTalk are delighted to roll out the ‘Chats for Change’ campaign again. This campaign hopes to remind students that by having a cup of tea and asking someone if they are okay can have such a positive impact on a person’s mental health and well-being.” Ms. Hanniffy continued to reiterate that talking is a sign of strength and not of weakness.
A chill-out zone was set up in each of the campuses taking part, where students could get the chats for change packs, read mental health literature and find out about the supports available to them. A survey will be conducted during this campaign, where students will be asked about their mental health perceptions, stigma and accessing support services in third level colleges. Those who enter will be in with a chance of winning one of 4 €50 One4All vouchers.
For any UCC students wishing to reach out, there are several supports available, including the UCC Health Service, where you can get put in touch with on campus services like counselling and CBT, you can also make a free appointment with a GP here. The UCC Chaplaincy, the UCC Students Union Welfare Officer Rory, and the UCC Nightline service if you want an anonymous perspective. Outside of the University, organisations like the Samaritans (116 123) and Pieta House are there to help. All the above services are free and confidential. Don’t suffer in silence.