- Charles Sturt staff and students paint a tree blue in Wagga Wagga to encourage discussions about mental health
In the midst of the native greenery that covers Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga is now a bright blue reminder that ‘It’s OK to not be OK’.
Staff, students and community members came together on Friday 6 November to support mental health initiative the Blue Tree Project.
The project encourages people to paint a dead tree blue as a visual reminder to check in on friends and family and to start difficult conversations about depression and anxiety.
As a leading regional institution the safety and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors is of the greatest importance to the University.
Charles Sturt supports a number of initiatives, including Equally Well, to improve the mental and physical health of people at each of its campuses.
Director, Office for Student Safety and Wellbeing Ms Kim Copeland said mental health can have an impact on the academic success of students if support is not available.
“We want students to be aware that we know there can be some hard times while studying but there is always someone here to talk to,” she said.
“The Blue Tree Project will start conversations, which is often the first step in seeking help.”
Ms Copeland said the Disability and Access Team and counselling team are always on hand to link students to the support they need.
“We want to reduce the stigma around help-seeking behaviour and we encourage students to reach out if they are struggling,” she said.
Charles Sturt’s Project Manager in Equity and Diversity in Wagga Wagga Mr Nicholas Steepe said although the Blue Tree Project was part of Mental Health Month in October, these are conversations we should be having year-round, especially in regional areas.
“As a leading regional university, we play an influential role in the communities in which we study, work and live,” he said.
“To have a physical reminder of the importance of talking about mental health, supporting others and seeking help is really powerful for staff, students and community members visiting Charles Sturt University.”
The paint was supplied for free by Wattyl and the Division of Facilities Management and CSU Green worked together to ensure the tree painting was environmentally-friendly and safe. Local representatives from the Aboriginal community were consulted to ensure the painting of the tree was culturally safe.
Manager of CSU Green Mr Ed Maher said the environment can also play a role in maintaining good mental health.
“There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that trees, and biodiversity more broadly, are able to provide mental health benefits, particularly in urban environments and farms subject to drought or other pressures,” he said.
Director of the Equally Well project in Australia Professor Russell Roberts said maintaining physical health is also integral to your mental health.
“The link between physical health and mental health is often overlooked,” he said.
“We know that 80 per cent of people with mental illness also have serious physical health conditions.”
Staff and students are encouraged to take a walk on campus to visit the blue tree to promote good physical and mental health.
If you or someone you know is struggling, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Headspace on 1300 659 467.
The blue tree is located at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga on Nathan Cobb Drive, near building 482 and the Biyal Place intersection.