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Silverline Wellbeing Festival supports and teaches positive student mental health

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 4:20pm

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Silverline Festival attendees take over the University Link for some group yoga. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The Silverline Wellbeing Festival, an Otago University and Polytechnic student-led mental health initiative, was a huge success over the weekend, with a big crowd of students learning together, speaking honestly about mental health, and even enjoying a morning surf.

The Silverline Festival’s aim was to expose students to ways of increasing their wellbeing, providing resources for coping with mental health issues and safely working through stressful events. Six influential speakers took to the stage throughout the weekend to give their personal accounts with mental health, and a series of workshops, with music and yoga breaks, created a supportive and bonding community of students.

The event began with a Fluro Friday Surf, which was hosted by One Wave founder Grant Trebilco. OneWave is a global surf community championing the recipe of saltwater, surfing and fluro for improving mental health, and it drew a large group of surf enthusiasts hitting the waves and discussing the importance of having healthy stress-release outlets.

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Surf enthusiasts take part in OneWave's pre-surf talk at St Kilda beach on Friday morning to kick-start the Festival. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The Silverline pilot is a team of over 40 passionate students dedicated to increasing the conversation around mental health. The Silverline Festival is just one of many events on the horizon for the team, and the line-up of nationally and internationally acclaimed speakers organized for the weekend showcases the importance of recognizing diversity in the ways society talks about and deals with mental health strategies.

The festival speakers were Mary Hoang, founder and head psychologist at The Indigo Project; Richie Hardcore, Muy Thai, boxing and personal trainer who campaigns for reducing drug and alcohol harm and against domestic and sexual violence; Irene Wakefield, founder of Prepair NZ who speaks on creating healthy relationships, Grant Trebilco, founder of OneWave who advocates for tackling mental health issues with saltwater therapy; Zane Pocock, former editor of Otago’s CRITIC magazine and current marketing manager at Hello Sunday Morning, a movement towards a better drinking culture; Damian Scarf, senior lecturer in Psychology researching mental health and survivor of anxiety and depression; Umi Asaka, second year social work student, intern at The Lucy Foundation and disability advocate; Jean Balchin, English honours student and advocate for suicide prevention and challenging suicide stigma; and workshop facilitator Rich Luciano, the creative director of the Indigo Project and co-founder of music mindfulness series, Listen Up.

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Otago University Psychology lecturer and Silverline speaker Damian Scarf gave an inspiring talk about his own experiences with mental health. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

Workshops included Mental Health and the Media- Challenging Destructive Representations, Healthy Relationships, Alcohol and You, and Beating Stress and Squashing Procrastination.

University of Otago Psychology lecturer Damian Scarf, speaking to the ODT before the event, said he was looking forward to sharing his own personal experiences with anxiety and depression with those at the festival. Feeling strongly that talking about mental health was very important, he said the Silverline Festival would enable participants to talk about it in an environment that was supportive and inspiring.

"Talking about mental health can be heavy, but I think the festival environment will help to balance things out."

The Festival was open to the public over the weekend, and the range of topics covered meant it offered support not only for those with first-hand experience with mental health issues, but also to those requiring professional development in the field of mentoring and student support.

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OUSA volunteer centre co-ordinator Sze-En Watts (centre) and Silverline speakers Jean Balchin and Umi Asaka (foreground) enjoy the other speakers. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

You can keep up with Silverline Otago's upcoming initiatives at their website, Silverline Otago and watch the video of the Fluro Friday Surf created by University of Otago on our YouTube channel.

Enjoy some more photos from the 2017 Silverline Wellbeing Festival below, beautifully shot by Sharron Bennett.

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The stage is set for the 2017 Silverline Wellbeing Festival.

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Students got involved in the group yoga workshop, which created a supportive and relaxing environment between talks.

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The OneWave morning surf team arrived kitted out in bright fluro to celebrate mental health awareness.

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Audience members applaud the inspiring presentations given by Silverline speakers.

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Workshop attendees brainstorm together.

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Silverline speaker Richie Hardcore educated attendees about rape culture and how to protect themselves against and heal from emotional and physical abuse.

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Otago student and suicide prevention advocate Jean Balchin spoke about her personal experience with suicide and busted some myths about suicide and its stigma.

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Festival attendees unwind after workshops.