The Union of Students in Ireland, alongside several other students' unions from right across the country, have all got involved with the #LendAHand campaign.
Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) have launched a new welfare campaign aimed at encouraging people to reach out to those who are “suffering in silence” as a result of mental health issues.
The #LendAHand campaign, organised by IADT Students Union, urges people to show support to those around them who may be suffering with mental health issues but do not wish to open up about just how much they are struggling.
As part of the online mental health campaign, IADT is calling on people to write positive messages of support on to their hand and then post the image online with the hashtag #LendAHand.
Commenting on the importance of the campaign during an “extremely stressful” time of year for college students, IADT Welfare and Equality Officer Paul Downes said, “This is the time that students are most likely to start to feel that they are alone in dealing with stress, anxiety or any other issues they are facing.”
“As a team, we felt that if we could get the message out to our students that not only are they not alone, but that there are people who are willing to lend them a helping hand, and that if we could somehow do this before the start of the new college year, then, at least some of the incoming students might feel less stressed and be more likely to talk to someone rather than suffer in silence,” Downes explained to Campus.ie.
Downes hopes that, “In the short term, this campaign might help to alleviate the stress of the start of the academic year, create the recognition that there are people willing to lend a hand and listen, and, therefore encourage people to talk.”
He also believes that the campaign is a “very small and targeted part” of the on-going efforts to tackle the stigma associated with mental health issues in Ireland, particularly among young people.
“In 2013 it was reported that, while the student population of Irish third level institutions had increased by 16% since 2006, the number of students seeking counselling services had increased by 33%.
"This would seem to indicate that there is a greater willingness among students to seek advice and talk about their problems and gives us some evidence that the message is getting through,” he commented.
“The Amnesty report in 2007 into the discrimination and stigma surrounding mental health issues in Ireland states that in order to challenge attitudes and behaviours, we need to create an atmosphere where simply talking about mental health is a normal and everyday thing.
"We would be hopeful that, in some small way, this campaign might contribute to creating this atmosphere among the students on our campus,” he continued.
Downes admitted he did not expect for the campaign to receive such a huge reaction, with student unions from right across the country, including the Union of Students in Ireland, all backing the initiative.
“#LendaHand was intended to be a purely online, social media campaign specifically targeted towards incoming students, however, it has completely exceeded our expectations in terms of the number of people engaging with it,” he revealed.
Downes said that while IADT currently “don’t have any definite plans” to extend the campaign any further, they “have been discussing the possibility of perhaps doing something with the campaign offline,” adding that people should “watch this space.”
Aoife Ní Shúilleabháin, Vice President for Welfare in the USI said she was, “delighted to be able to support the #LendAHand campaign.”
“Help is always available, all you need to do is ask,” she added.
Photo: IADT Student Union/ Facebook (Niamh Murtagh IT Tralee SU, supporting #LendaHand @iadtsu)