Griffith University students have addressed the complex issue of mental health in a vital project to increase awareness of the university’s mental health services and support for students.
More than 60 students from Service Learning’s Community Internship course worked collaboratively on the project, generating positive solutions aimed at encouraging fellow students to utilise the many existing mental health services on offer.
To implement this goal, the project applied a peer to peer ‘for students, by students’ approach to create a personable way to connect students to existing resources.
Project Leader Madi Wheeler said the project had taken five weeks to complete but showed a lot of promise.
“We think the project would be successful if implemented,” Madi said.
The project is part of Service Learning’s larger Social Impact Project, which aims to address five social justice issues faced by vulnerable communities.
They also include homelessness, digital inclusion, empowering people of all abilities, and environment and sustainability.
Director of Griffith’s Service Learning Unit, Dr Faith Valencia-Forrester, said the Mental Health Project aimed to support students within Griffith and the wider community.
“There has been acknowledgement of increasing issues around mental health for students and we decided to strategically address them,” Dr Valencia-Forrester said.
“I have been working on this project since the middle of 2019, so it’s been quite a big project, pulling it all together, but the students are the ones doing all the work.”
The students pitched the project to mental health partners from Mental Health First Aid through a Zoom session on August 25.
Mental Health First Aid Workplace Engagement Manager Kathy Bond congratulated the students on their vision for the project.
“I particularly like the way you’re working together and, not to sound clichéd, but we work stronger as teams, so I think that’s great,” Ms Bond said to students after their project presentation.
“I love that you’re thinking about sustainability, that this project will live longer than you do as a team, so it sounds like a really amazing project.”
Acting Community Engagement Manager for Mental Health First Aid, Erin Healy, said the students’ project was well produced, particularly during a global pandemic.
“I think you’ve carried [inclusivity] through all of your steps really well, particularly with your response to COVID-19, as obviously things have had to move onto online platforms,” Ms Healy told students.
“You mentioned you’ve considered that not everyone will feel confident enough to speak up in a group, and that you’ve got other options for people to be involved, but at levels that will suit different comfort zones, which is really amazing.
“I think it’s been a difficult time to pull a project like this together and it’s forced all of us to think creatively.”
Student Sammy Brigden said the feedback from Mental Health First Aid partners was helpful for the project team going forward.
“The areas for improvement were things we touched on earlier but kind of neglected on the way, so it’s a really good way to pull us back into focus and make us accountable for what we’re trying to achieve,” Sammy said.
The project not only raised awareness for existing services at Griffith, but also aimed to connect students to external mental health organisations outside the university.
Student Jennifer Radford said the project had unique elements that separated it from similar projects.
“I think it [the Mental Health Project] opens up a whole new demographic considering we are specifically focusing on university students,” she said.
“I’m sure they [mental health organisations] have worked with people from that demographic before, but I think that our specific targeting could help open up the conversation a lot more to a new group.”
The next stage in the Mental Health Project is for individual project teams to work together on making improvements and implementing feedback from Mental Health First Aid partners.
This article is an edited contribution from Griffith journalism students Iris Zhang and Madison Coskerie.