The St Vincent de Paul Society is one of the largest charitable organisations in Australia and throughout the world. Last week, my leader and co-facilitator Jeanne McConachie and I were asked to run a mental health first aid workshop at their South Brisbane administration office on Merivale St in the lead up to their Sense Camp for 13-17 year old youths. The majority of these young people who come to St Vincent’s and the Sense Camp come from disadvantaged backgrounds, with high cases of neglect, abuse or disruption to their lives. A number of them have been clinically diagnosed as depressed, with anxiety or with substance abuse and eating disorders. The mentors and leaders that work with the youth are not much older than them – some of the leaders we trained were in grade 12, however most were in their 20s. We were there to equip them with the skills to recognise some of the common mental health issues in youth, what to do in a crisis situation, and where to get further help. Our role was to provide that extra support and knowledge for a community organisation that is so vitally a part of the community and lives of down-trodden and disadvantaged youths. It was an opportunity to connect and train these leaders, knowing that the work we did in helping them would help many others they came in contact with. The workshop was very well received and it was great to see how the participants knowledge expanded and grew during the day. The St Vincent de Paul volunteers were also extremely interested to hear about the Mentors in Violence Prevention workshops/awareness sessions we hope to be running once Enactus is trained.
The important thing that is continually reaffirmed to me whenever I undertake these workshops or meet with community organisations such as St Vinnies is that if we can help, and our help is desired, then why wouldn’t we? We all have valuable skills that can be put to use in a variety of circumstances. Personally, being passionate about mental health, youth opportunities and gender issues, working with these organisations makes me feel incredibly happy and valued. I know we are a generation pressed for time, pressed for resources, and, sometimes, pressed for opportunities, but I think sometimes we need to take a step back and look at what we can do. When you have come to the end of the year, what will you remember? What will you have done?
Looking back on my past year, the times I have been happiest and of most use (and therefore the times I remember strongest) are those where I have gone out of my way to better myself and others. So often us ‘young people’ get caught in the routine of work – study – go out with friends – sleep. But at the end of the day, what have we actually done?
So, if ever anyone were to ask me why I cram my time with volunteering or with causes no one else would have the effort for, I would say it is because I want to make the most of what I have now. And what I have now is the will, the ambition and the means to help. If you’re interested in doing the same, you should definitely get in touch with me. Passion is viral and I’m happy to share!
The St Vinnies’ workshop we ran was well worth giving up my Sunday for, and the fact that we can provide this workshop for free and for the benefit of many more than those who actually attended the course is phenomenal. If you’re also interested in de-stigmatising mental health issues or have an awesome community organisation that could be of benefit of our workshops in mental health or violence prevention, please get in contact!
And with all that said, I am off now to finish writing my speech for the Gifted Children’s Symposium where I will be guest speaking at next week. Wish me luck!