WONTHAGGI Secondary College is advocating to break the stigma around mental health illnesses by participating in the Black Dog Institute One Foot Forward fundraiser, in support of mental health research.

Mental illness can be debilitating and have devastating effects for people living with them and those around them.

Wonthaggi Secondary College San Remo Campus Principal Emma Harris said the school recognises that highlighting mental health issues, resources and supports available to young people is important.

“Given the challenges over the last two years with lockdowns and remote learning, we have seen an increase in young people requiring support. Talking openly about mental health challenges decreases possible stigma or fear which can prevent people from reaching out,” Ms Harris said.

The whole school has been invited to participate in the One Foot Forward fundraiser, and many students have joined the good cause.

“Participating in One Foot Forward is only a small part of our commitment to raising awareness for mental health, it gives people extra motivation to get out and be active which is great for their wellbeing,” she said.

Funds raised throughout October by Black Dog Institute will go towards life-changing research into treatment and prevention of mental illnesses, as well as vital support services.

Secondary College has trumped its original goal of $1000 and is now hoping to continue raising more money throughout the month.

“We aren’t specifically focussed on fundraising, rather we focus on awareness and support options available to local young people,” Ms Harris said.

“It is through the kindness of our community that we have been able to meet our fundraising goal of $1000, which goes to the Black Dog Institute for life-changing research into treatment and prevention of mental illness, as well as vital support services.”

Black Dog Institute reported that one in five people experience symptoms of mental illness each year, eight people in Australia die from suicide every day and shockingly, 60 per cent of people living with mental illness will not seek help.

Wonthaggi Secondary College students will be participating in mental health-related activities, supported by headspace, across the month to raise awareness amongst the cohort.

“Unfortunately, many of our plans have been changed due to COVID restrictions, so we are aiming to have virtual wellbeing and mental health workshops for students this term,” Ms Harris said.

Late last term headspace ran a virtual workshop for parents of Wonthaggi Secondary College year 11 and 12 students, demonstrating that the involvement of parents is valued and supported by the school.

“When students return on-site, we are aiming for them to organise some events of their own,” Ms Harris said.

Wonthaggi Secondary College is running a strong social media campaign and students are frequently sent information and activities that they can join online.

In support of mental health in school, Wonthaggi Secondary College has also been fortunate enough to secure a part-time school headspace worker in addition to the wellbeing staff already in place.

To support Wonthaggi Secondary College’s walk for mental health research visit, onefootforward.org.au/fundraisers/wonthaggisecondarycollege.