RUOK?: Year 8 Shalom College students Olivia Keech and Alani Morley support fundraising efforts by purchasing cookies and (above) the message spelled out by students.
RUOK?: Year 8 Shalom College students Olivia Keech and Alani Morley support fundraising efforts by purchasing cookies and (above) the message spelled out by students. CONTRIBUTED

School's focus on mental well-being

MENTAL wellness is a vital component to health and well-being and Shalom College has gone big to raise awareness for RUOK? Day today.

The loss of a staff member to suicide earlier this year sent shockwaves through both the school and broader community.

"It's been a significant issue for us this year and it's certainly been a prompt to us,” principal Dan McMahon said.

"The shock of someone who we all thought was going well, and managed to hide that pain, is a reminder that still waters can run deep.

"We have to be aware of the people around us and be there for them in a time of need.”

Mr McMahon said reminding kids of the seriousness of mental well-being in this day and age was imperative.

"Obviously it's a really important thing just to put in front of young people to help monitor their sense of well-being and to look after each other,” he said.

"Specifically kids in this digital age. We try to stress to them the issue of their online presence and to be careful of what they 'like'.

"It can be a mindless thing to click 'like' on social media and they can sometimes 'like' things that are unkind which can be hurtful to people.

"We try and teach students not to be bystanders to the keyboard warriors that might say things to somebody online that they might not say to their face.”

Business faculty head Gail Norris said the Certificate III in business students were the ones who coined the grand plan to spread the message throughout the whole school.

"This term the kids had to actually do their competencies based in teams,” Ms Norris said.

The students had to create a project to raise awareness for RUOK? Day and ended up executing three separate events.

"The students were looking for a different way of grabbing the attention of the school community,” the teacher said.

"The first event saw the students selling RUOK? sugar cookies that were packaged individually with an affirming or supportive quote attached.”

The idea behind this was that students could buy a cookie for a friend or mate whom they wanted to check in on and start a conversation with.

"Next, a sausage sizzle fund-raiser helped the students continue their awareness campaign,” Ms Norris said.

The final project saw the entire school work together on one message.

"Approximately 1200 students converged on the school oval to spell out the question they want everyone to remember - "R U OK?,” Ms Norris said.

"'How are you' is taken more as a greeting these days with an automatic response, whereas asking the pointy question 'are you OK?' may delve deeper, requiring a more thoughtful and frank response.

"Mental health is an issue and we need to all be doing our best to raise awareness.”

Shalom raised $500 for the charity and will today post the video of their oval message to their Facebook page.



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