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Greg Benson Mental Health Awareness Month Interview

#Weavesurvivaltips Helping People Focus On Good Mental Health and Wellbeing

Weave Youth & Community Services is calling on the community to share their mental health survival tips this October, Mental Health Awareness Month, to encourage more discussions about mental wellbeing and as a way to help those in need.

The #WeaveSurvivalTips campaign is in its third year and recognises that every person - no matter who you are, where you come from or what your background is - goes through tough times. It encourages the community to share their tips, hints and advice on how they maintain good mental health and navigate through difficult times.

Weave is encouraging people to support the campaign by sharing their own #WeaveSurvivalTips on social media to help promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

The mental health awareness campaign was developed by Weave in consultation with young people in a bid to reduce youth suicide rates. Latest statistics show that over 3,000 Australians die as a result of suicide each yeari and it is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15-34 years.

Weave's CEO, Mr Greg Benson, says the campaign is a simple way that the community can connect and positively focus on resilience, solidarity and strength when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

'We love reading everybody's responses on what things, no matter how big or small, help them maintain good mental health. The campaign was launched to create a welcoming, inclusive space that allows the community to talk about what helps them cope on a day-to-day basis," said Mr Benson.

'By sharing our own experiences we hope that others, who may not be coping with their mental health, will learn new techniques or initiate a conversation that will help them improve their mental wellbeing," said Mr Benson.

For 40 years, Weave has been providing community-based support to empower people to change their lives. In recognition of its invaluable work with the Indigenous community, Weave has received the Mental Health Matters Award for Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Award. The award was given to Weave in recognition of Weave's collaborative work with local Aboriginal organisations and evaluating how similar groups can learn from people's lived experiences.

To continue its important work in the community, Weave has recently launched the Creating Futures justice program, which supports people who have been incarcerated to break the cycle and create a better future for themselves.

The new diversionary program is supported by Weave's caseworkers to provide support for up to 12 months in a number of areas, including counselling, living skills, legal issues, mental health support, accommodation, mentoring and employment.

According to Melissa Merritt, Weave's Creating Futures Team Leader, the program adopts a trauma informed, strengths-based approach to encourage people in Sydney who have gone through the criminal justice system to develop skills and receive support to improve their lives.

'This program was developed in response to the demand in the community and Weave's commitment to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody. The program provides community based options for people and culturally safe and appropriate support for Aboriginal clients. We are helping people break the cycle by supporting them with a holistic program that draws on their strengths and provides them with the support they need to transition back into the community," said Ms Merritt.

For more information about Weave's programs visit www.weave.org.au


Interview with Greg Benson, Weave Youth's CEO

Question: What message do you hope to spread this Mental Health Awareness Month?

Greg Benson: We are aiming to spread the message that no matter who you are, where you come from or what your background is everyone goes through tough times. We want to encourage people to reach out to their families and friends and have a discussion about mental wellbeing.


Question: Can you tell us about the #WeaveSurvivalTips campaign?

Greg Benson: Weave Youth & Community Services work from a strengths based perspective, and are always exploring what young people do to overcome adversity and stress. Weave Survival Tips was developed by Weave in 2014 in consultation with young people in a bid to reduce youth suicide rates. Over 3,000 Australians die as a result of suicide each year and it is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15-34 years.

The Weave Survival Tips campaign #WeaveSurvivalTips is inspired by the idea that every single person goes through hard times during their life, and that these hard times impact on people's mental health.

The campaign aims to unite people of all ages and backgrounds to join in an experience of sharing 'tips" (messages) of the things they might do and things they might think that that helps through tough times. They are messages of hope, inspirations and encouragement to support young people to get through hard times.

Through acknowledging that each individual has their own unique way of coping, #WeaveSurvivalTips has invited many people to share their own 'tips" including celebrities, sports stars and many children and young people in our communities.

We continue to encourage people to support the campaign by sharing their own #WeaveSurvivalTips on social media to help promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

To date, we have collected over 2,500 survival tips! We have shared these tips shared these tips on social media, and at community events and our photo-booth.

Every October we partner with local cafes to replace their normal takeaway coffee cups with cups with a #WeaveSurvivalTips encouraging more people to think about they do to get through tough times. This year we are super excited as we will also be selling sustainable keep cups, so keep a look out for these!


Question: What mental health signs and symptoms should we look for in our friends and family?

Greg Benson: We encourage people to be aware of signs that may be impacting the mental health of themselves, their friends and families. These signs can include feeling overly stressed or anxious, seeming persistently withdrawn, or engaging in risk taking behaviour like sex, drug abuse and alcohol use.

You should never be afraid to check in with people if you think something is wrong. You should never hold back reaching out for support if you feel like you are struggling to cope.


Question: How can we encourage friends and family to talk about mental wellbeing?

Greg Benson: We encourage people to start by asking friends and family what they do to manage when they are feeling down, anxious or stressed. You are asking them their survival tip. This can be a powerful conversation starter, as people often haven't reflected on what they do, they just do it, and each person's survival tip is very personal. Through #WeaveSurvivalTips we have seen an amazing array of ways that people look after themselves including the use of creativity using the power of art , music, poetry, song, to others playing sport, going for a run, or doing Yoga. Another common theme is connecting with nature, going for a swim in the ocean, walk in the bush, to those who talk with their family and friends and just want a hug.

We love reading everybody's responses on what things they do to get through tough times; no matter how big or small, we love hearing what supports people's mental wellbeing.


Question: Can you share some questions we could ask those who may be experiencing difficulties?

Greg Benson: Hey I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately. Just want to check in and see if you are ok? I know you're going through a tough time at the moment. Is there anything I can do to support you? When you've gone through tough times before, what helped you get through? What were some of things you did? Thought? What were the small things that made a big difference? How can I be a good friend to you right now?


Question: What advice do you have for those of us going through tough times?

Greg Benson: Firstly, know your #WeaveSurvivalTips and action it.
Secondly, make sure you are sharing with your friends and family, and seek the support of organisations such as Weave.
If you don't want to speak to friends and family please contact an organisation such as Weave or ReachOut or visit your GP.


Question: Can you tell us about Weave Youth & Community Services?

Greg Benson: Weave Youth & Community Services in a not for profit community organisation that has been supporting children, young people, women and families that face disadvantage and hardships in the City of Sydney and South Sydney Area for 40 years.

Weave's vision is to build a strong and connected community with opportunities and Justice for all and our mission is to empower people to change their lives.


Question: Are you able to share a success story from Weave Youth & Community Services?

Greg Benson: We have had lots of young people and families share their success stories with us over the years. They have told us that a little bit of the right support at the right time goes a really long way.

They have shared insight into what they have found useful and things include:
• Providing non-judgmental support
• Trusting relationships
• Listening to what they want to see happen
• Feeling respected for who they are
• Providing access to opportunities that change their lives


Question: How can Australians support this campaign?

Greg Benson: We encourage people to hop on social media, through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and share their #WeaveSurvivalTips and to reach out to family and friends to have a discussion about mental wellbeing. People can also donate to Weave to support the Weave Survival Tips Campaign or other Weave programs at www.weave.org.au.


Interview by Brooke Hunter



 

 
 



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