This is an outline of the most recent address I gave to our secondary students, at our Secondary Campus assembly, on Wednesday 28 November.
It may seem strange to speak on a subject like this, especially in light of the recent Endeavour health audit of our college. In this most recent Endeavour health audit, our school was characterized as being a safe place with well-adjusted students.
There are a lot of pressures young people face in our contemporary society. Their mental well-being is an important element of their development. Really, it is an issue for all of us.
Here it is:
I like walking around this campus, you are good people to be with. Today I want to speak to you about times in your life when things aren’t going so well. These times can be a reality for us all.
What I’m talking about can usually start with something you are going through currently or it can be a series of setbacks or negative circumstances. During this, a tipping point occurs and a kind of disconnect develops and what you are going through becomes more than circumstances around you. Your reaction? What is inside of you takes on a life of its own and tends to overcome you.
In some, this can develop to a degree of depression. This is a condition of your mood. Humour seems to evaporate. You can feel as if you are living under a dark cloud or that your emotions and feelings have just gone absent. It can be hard to be motivated or even react, everything seems to be a chore.
In others, anxiety. This is about the way you are thinking. You tend to overthink your situation, worry too much or imagine the worst is going to happen. You can lose confidence and trust. Questions like; what if? How would? Or, how could I cause you to worry? This then takes on a life of its own.
When something overtakes you, this is generally a sign you need help beyond yourself.
Where can you find this help?
The first would have to be friends. I remember studying first-year psychology many years ago and hearing that having good friends was generally as helpful (if not more) than having a psychiatrist. There is tremendous power in friendship. Friends are a key connection. Having good friends helps keep you grounded, connected and reminds you that you are valued. My encouragement to you all is to be good friends. Sometimes this can be hard when others are going through difficult times because exactly when they need good friends, they appear to be unfriendly i.e. touchy, moody, reactive or just not fun.
Be good friends. Help each other through the tough times and remember that if someone is reacting or struggling with something, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you, it’s about what they’re going through. Don’t let your friendships break down just when you need them the most.
The next opportunity for help is someone further down the road than you are, for example, a mentor. Someone you look up to and trust. This can be a member of your family, trusted teacher, counselor or chaplain. Don’t shy away from those that are older. Don’t think you’re going to get judged. You will find that they are there to help and want to be there to help.
I want to finally put in a word from God. The language he uses towards us is deeply personal. “Cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
I became a Christian when I was 23. God helped me then and continues to help me now.
I have been deeply affected by recent media (though I know most of you decidedly avoid watching the news 😉) that Christians are people who want to discriminate. I think they miss the real heart of Christianity. It’s humility. I’ve been helped and in turn, want to help others. That’s what I want this school to be.
Mr. Rod McNeill
Beyondblue - Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours / 7 days a week.
Headspace -Provides mental health and wellbeing support, information and services to young people aged 12 to 25 years and their families. Call 1800 650 890.
Lifeline - Provides 24-hour crisis counseling, support groups, and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.