18 May 2015


First years: welcome to the USU Board Election period.

For everyone else: welcome back.

It’s understandable if you’re disillusioned, or if you’re fatigued by the latest round of coloured shirts filled with people promising big things. The 2014-15 Board is well aware of the flaws of the electoral system, and that’s why we’ve put in a lot of concerted effort to bring about good electoral reform. Amongst them, we have revisited the voting incentive, and replaced the age-old drink voucher with a $1 donation to the USU’s nominated charity partner.

In 2015, the USU Charity Program is supporting headspace Camperdown. Aran Kanagaratnam, the 2015 Charity Officer, is responsible for organising events to support and raise funds for the phenomenal work they do for youth mental health. To further this support, every vote cast in this year’s Board Election will make the USU donate $1 to headspace. I spoke with Aran to gain a better understanding of the Charity Office, and why supporting headspace is so important.

1. In your opinion, why is headspace such an important organisation for the USU to support?

Young people have the highest rates of mental illness (about 1 in 4) but are also the least likely to get help (only 40% do). This makes mental health account for more than half the disease burden among young people. Adolescence and early adulthood is often a fluid period in young people’s lives – they’re still trying to find their identity, and this is a period characterised by change, making it even more tough when these problems do occur.

Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, were set up to oversee exactly this problem. They are a confidential early intervention and prevention service with psychiatrists, mental health nurses, doctors and psychologists, and they’re only ten minutes from campus. In addition they run support groups and clinics, and offer drug and alcohol counselling. Mental health problems affect every cross-section of the university community – it is very likely that either you, or someone close to you is suffering from a mental illness, and that’s why headspace is so important.

2. How have you worked with headspace thus far in your term as Charity Officer?

So far, we’ve worked with headspace and had a stall at O-week, where people could book consultations, get freebies or just have a friendly chat with one of the headspace professionals. We also ran a screenprinting workshop during Pride Week, where anyone could come and print a personalised message for free onto a t-shirt. This was a great success, with many unique designs and positive messages about individuality and diversity, and we ended up running out of t-shirts!

For Health and Wellbeing Day, we produced a joint headspace/USU publication on looking after your mental wellbeing. We also had experts from headspace give a workshop on how to help a friend who you think might be having a rough time, and we had a chill-out zone where people could relax, play games and get away for a couple of minutes (or hours!) from the general hustle and bustle of uni life.

3. What can we look forward to for the rest of the semester (or year)?

Looking further ahead, we’re partnering with the final Funch of the semester with a special “de-stress before exams” theme, and later in the year we’re hoping to have a big collaborative installation for Verge and National Mental Health Week.

4. What can USU members and the broader University community do to support headspace and aid its goals? 

Firstly, come along to the various events we’re running at the USU festivals, whether they are just to have a good time and relax, or to learn more about these issues, so we can reduce the pervasive stigma that surrounds mental health. People can also get involved directly with headspace, who do provide volunteering opportunities. Most importantly though, if you or a friend are going through a tough time, try to make the first step towards seeking help. This can be small, like listening to a friend talk about their problems or seeking online advice at eheadspace.org.au, or even going to or accompanying a friend to an appointment at headspace.

If election promises, campaign design or the principles of democracy aren’t enough to convince you to vote this coming Wednesday, consider headspace and make a difference.


If you are after some more information around headspace Camperdown services, visit www.headspace.org.au/camperdown or give them a call on (02) 9114 4100.

Find out more about the elections here.

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