Please Talk was set up in 2007 in response to five students who lost a friend through suicide. They realised the importance of getting students to talk and seek help when in distress. Since then it is grown into a national campaign which signposts third level students to social supports available on and off campus.
To celebrate this milestone, we went back to where it all began to UCD which was very poignant for those attending the event. Friends, colleagues, staff and students from Please Talk and mental health societies from across the country gathered to mark this event on the 5th December 2017. To mark this occasion the Please Talk website was relaunched on the night.
First speakers of the night were the lead researchers Dr. Maria Quinlan and Dr. Etain Quigley of See Change’s ‘Look Beyond’ exhibition. ‘Look beyond’ is a photovoice research exhibition, that pictures mental health difficulties and encourages people to look beyond the illness and see the person. They discussed the process and how they engaged with the participants which resulted in over 30 images and descriptions been chosen for the exhibition.
This exhibition was displayed in the Student Centre where the attendees could see the images and descriptions of the participants’ experience of mental illness. This was very powerful for those working in the area of mental health to see how important the work we are doing continues so that we keep breaking down the stigma attached to mental health in Ireland.
The second speakers were from UCD Youth Mental Health Lab where Dr. Amanda Fitzgerald and Cliodhna O’Connor talked about the research around college students talking about their mental health. The research proves that we need to keep encouraging people to talk about their mental health and seeking help, especially for young males. This research reinforces the aims of Please Talk and always reminding people that ‘Talking is a sign of strength’ and highlighted the importance of work that the societies are doing on campus in creating awareness around the importance of talking and seeking support while in college to their peers.
The speaker of the night was Scott Ahearn, who was one of the Please Talk founders. He spoke passionately as to how the loss of their close friend triggered a response that action needed to be taken to help prevent other students suffering the loss they encountered. He spoke about his own personal journey and how the stigma affected him around his own mental health issues as a student.
While bringing us along the journey of how Please Talk has grown over the 10 years and inspired the students currently on their own campuses to go back with more passion to continue and build on the work they are already doing.
The event was concluded with a candle light vigil and one minute silence in memory of the students we have lost to suicide throughout the years.
This was a truly special event and a thank you to all our speakers and attendees on the night.