Could Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why promote better mental health initiatives in schools? [opinion]

The controversy surrounding the Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why has blown up over the past couple of months, with thousands of Facebook users taking to their keyboards to either praise or condemn the show.

For those who have yet to see it, 13 Reasons Why explores the events leading up to the suicide of 15-year-old Hannah Baker. The series includes a graphic scene of Hannah painfully taking her own life in the bathtub.

13 Reasons Why is far from a perfect representation of mental illness – many argue that the show glosses over or even glorifies mental illness and suicide – but whether you love it or hate it, the outcome remains the same: people are talking about mental health and suicide prevention.

By promoting conversations about mental health, and exposing viewers to the harsh realities of ill-equipped school counsellors, 13 Reasons Why has challenged existing stigma surrounding mental health issues.

By introducing these types of media into pop culture, the existence of mental health issues become acknowledged and de-stigmatised within communities.

Why is this important?

According to a joint report from Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute, nearly 1 in 4 Australian teenagers meet the criteria for “having a probable serious mental illness”.

A recent study from Headspace and the National Union of Students has also found that 1 in 3 Australian tertiary students think about self-harm or suicide.

By acknowledging and de-stigmatising mental health issues, we as a community can open the floor for educated discussions, learn to recognise signs of depression, and save more lives.

High schools and tertiary institutions can use media as a tool to engage students and staff when discussing mental health, disprove stereotypes and highlight the importance of seeking help if needed.

In 13 Reasons Why, the failure of the school counsellor, Mr. Porter, to reach out and provide help to Hannah when she sought it should provide current and future counsellors with an understanding of how not to treat a teenager battling depression.

Students can also be encouraged to educate themselves on mental health awareness, learn to look for symptoms, and find out how to ask for help.

In response to research indicating that teenagers prefer to share their problems with peers, Mental Health First Aid Australia developed a course specifically aimed at teenagers to encourage them to support their peers.

After completing the course, participants had reduced stigmatised attitudes, improved knowledge of mental health problems and their treatment, increased confidence in providing mental health first aid to a peer, and increased help-seeking intentions.

So, it’s up to schools to decide whether they should force their students to analyse Macbeth’s soliloquies and memorise Pythagoras’s theorem, or teach staff and students to potentially save lives.

I know which I’d pick.

How unpaid internships benefit the rich [opinion]

I’m having difficulty adapting to the end of university life. For the past four and a half years I’ve been able to focus on assignments and blocking out the real world. It wasn’t until my final year that I realised the importance of gaining work experience through internships and volunteering.

I was so focused on getting decent grades and completing all my assignments that I forgot that university was a pathway to get to a desired career goal. I think that a lot of people fall into this trap, and we come away from university with our degrees and minimal job prospects because of it.

I heard the other day that it takes a graduate an average of four years to get full-time work related to their study field. That’s longer than most of the degrees out there.

Most workplaces won’t hire you without experience, which makes sense because they don’t want to hire people who may not be able to perform well. But how are you supposed to gain experience if no-one will hire you?

That’s when unpaid internships come into play. In the international relations sector, majority of internships are unpaid and go for several months at a time. If (like me) you come from a city that doesn’t offer internships in your field of interest, you need to relocate at your own cost – either interstate or internationally.

This is where things start to really irk me. If you’re working full-time for several months away from home, it’s going to start getting expensive. Accommodation, food, transport, work-related expenses… it all adds up. Full-time unpaid work doesn’t leave a lot of time for paid casual or part-time work, so you need to prepare to save a lot of money beforehand or go into debt. If you don’t have the money, you can’t afford to live.

This means that only people who are financially well-off or have saved like crazy can afford to take part in these initiatives. Intentionally or not, these unpaid internships benefit the rich, further widening the gap between rich and poor graduates. If you can’t afford to work for free to get experience then it seems like you might be waiting a while for that graduate-level position.

Archives: 2016 wrap up

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2016 was a big year. I started off readjusting from my Japanese exchange, and learning to live with less money. 2016 was the year I started reading about minimalism and feminism and was inspired to live a more meaningful life with less. I must have decluttered over 1000 possessions, and it barely made a dent. It continued to look the same.

This was the year I pushed myself to get involved in more extra-curricular activities. I joined the UNITE Leadership Program and became an e-pal mentor for the first semester. I became involved with the Community Connect club and participated in the Vinnie’s Community Sleepout where I was educated on the issue of homelessness in Australia. I organised a pad and tampon collection drive across the university campuses to donate to women in need via Share the Dignity. I became the project manager of a panel session called She Speaks: the power of an educated woman, where four panelists and our MC discussed the importance of educating girls and women, promoting leadership and the benefits for the community overall. These projects sparked a new interest – women’s wellbeing.

As a member of Golden Key, I was invited to participate in the International Scholar Laureate Program’s Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy in South Africa (which I assure you is not nearly as pretentious as it sounds). As I didn’t have any significant income, I took up jobs through an agency involving event cleaning, serving food and drinks at functions and working on production lines. I also raised money through crowdfunding, scholarship applications, writing to my local council and applying for a student loan. My family could not have been more shocked at how my determination pulled through to afford this experience. Travelling to South Africa was not only an incredible experience, but provided me with a base for one of my papers on reconciliation and my 4500 word international relations research paper. I’m currently eyeing up the 2017 delegation to China, but I expect that would require real grown-up loans with lots of interest, and I’m not sure I can justify it (side note: I definitely am justifying it).

I applied for a place for the 2017 Journalism Professional Practicum with the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (again, not as pretentious as it sounds!) and amazingly, was offered a spot. They arranged a four-week internship at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in January and February. I’ll also be learning Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian language) and learning about Indonesian culture and media in the two weeks beforehand.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

 

An open letter to my younger self

Dear 15 year old Milly,

If memory serves correctly you’re in year 10 and it’s the happiest year in high school you’ve had so far. You’re probably wondering what the future holds for you: you didn’t get into a law degree, which is completely fine as you had no interest in law anyway; you’ve figured out that you can get university credit for travelling; and you’ve learned that being single is actually really enjoyable.

Here’s a collection of advice to prepare you for the years to come: 

Do not let peroxide get anywhere near your hair. It is a terrible idea and you will look like an old woman but no-one will tell you. Also, every single time you cut your hair short you will regret it. A lot.

Delete your Formspring account. It seems like a joke, but anyone who sends anonymous questions about your non-existent sex life online is harassing you. You have some friends with unsavoury ideas about the role of women and you should educate or cut them out of your life now.

Your high school crushes are just that, crushes. They change about every 3-6 months. You’ve been watching too many school-life anime series – you are not in love with them and therefore you do not need to confess that “love”. And don’t go out with anyone because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings by turning them down. It only makes things more difficult in the long run.

On that note, someone will love you for the person that you are, even if it is temporary. It feels incredible, but don’t let that compromise your principles or force you into doing anything you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with.

If you have a problem with the way your friends are behaving talk to them personally and leave social media (especially anything public) out of it. Also, call or visit the person you’re dating when your relationship takes a turn so you don’t have to sheepishly admit that you were broken up with over Facebook Messenger. Or better yet, break up with him first.

Learn how to save money and budget. In your early twenties you’re still struggling, and regret spending a lot of money on extravagant presents for and dates with your (now ex) boyfriend years later. Save that money up for travelling, as it’s something you’re passionate about.

Finally, the next few years are going to take a serious toll on your mental health, which will extend to your physical health. Visit a GP when you feel like you’re drowning and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no shame in asking for help, and your true friends will stick by you even if they can’t understand what’s going on in your mind.

You’ve got a lot to look forward to kiddo, so get out there and make the most of your life!

 

FAQs: my university pathway

Last week when my parents admitted they weren’t quite sure how my studies all tied together, I was forced to admit that my study pathway seems confusing from the outside. As a result I’ve created this cheat sheet with my friends and family members in mind, so they don’t have to sheepishly ask (again) what the hell I’m doing. If you want to get into the really fine details, get a snack and visit my LinkedIn profile.

So, what exactly are you studying?

At university I’ve been working towards three undergraduate programs: Diploma in Languages (Japanese), Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of International Relations. I’ve completed the requirements for two of these, and all I need is to complete a semester of journalism subjects to complete my undergraduate studies.

How did you manage to reduce your time spent at university?

These programs were supposed to take five years to complete (four for my double Bachelors and another one for the Diploma), but I’m on track to complete it in four and a half. How? I’ve utilised summer school opportunities and taken on the maximum number of subjects per semester. I was also able to transfer credit for the equivalent of two subjects for the Japanese in-country course I took in first year.

How can you travel so much as part of your university studies?

Long story short, as a communications student (particularly international relations and languages) I’m encouraged to undertake in-country study. In my case, instead of completing four international relations subjects, I opted to study overseas for a semester; undertook an in-country language course and extended my student exchange for my language diploma; and found an overseas internship for my journalism internship requirement. I’ve calculated that by the time I graduate, approximately 30 per cent of my university courses will have been fully or partially completed internationally (adding up to 13 accumulative months).

From day one at university I was actively seeking out opportunities to incorporate travel into my university studies. Every few months I search for and apply for many programs (and scholarships to cover the cost of these programs), of which I’m only accepted into a small percentage. Since I’m always asked where I went/for how long/what I got credit for/what scholarships I received, here’s a comprehensive list:

  • Japan 2013/4, 2015
    • 6 week intensive Japanese course at Waseda University – 2 subjects equivalent (international relations and languages) – JASSO monthly scholarship, Global Experience scholarship
    • Spring semester of Japanese at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies – 4 subjects equivalent (international relations) – New Colombo Plan scholarship, JASSO monthly scholarship
    • Autumn semester of Japanese at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies – 4 subjects equivalent (languages) – OS-HELP loan, JASSO monthly scholarship
  • South Africa 2016
    • 2 week ISLP Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy to South Africa – part of one subject (international relations) – OS-HELP loan, ISLP $500 reduction scholarship
  • Indonesia 2017 (upcoming)
    • 6 week ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum – 1 subject equivalent (journalism) – New Colombo Plan scholarship

If you want ideas of how to raise money for uni-related travel, read my previous blog post entitled How to fund your study overseas despite being a broke uni student.

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What extra-curricular activities are you involved in?

In addition to studying full-time, I’ve been involved in a number of extra-curricular activities since starting university. I completed the Global Experience program (which was discontinued in 2015), the UNITE Leadership Program, the Student Ambassador program (as a Global Experience ambassador). In 2016 I was involved in several activities through the Community Connect club, which promotes volunteering and community engagement. These included: participating in the Vinnie’s Community Sleepout; organising a university-wide sanitary item collection for Share the Dignity; and raising funds for the International Women’s Development Agency through managing a panel session that focused on the importance of educating girls and women and the importance of getting them into positions of leadership.

What are your plans after you graduate?

Honestly, the thought of graduating slightly terrifies me, as graduates are expected to undertake a number of unpaid internships to gain practical experience before they are hired. Ideally I’d love to get into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Graduate Program, be sponsored to undertake a Masters degree by coursework in International Relations or related field, and eventually end up working as an Australian ambassador, at the United Nations or helping to combat women’s issues.

Homelessness awareness campaign

As part of the UNITE leadership program my team of big-hearted and talented individuals have been working on organising a homelessness awareness campaign at the University of South Australia campuses during August and September 2016. We’ve been working with two organisations that work tirelessly to assist people in need: the St Vincent de Paul Society and Share the Dignity. Read more about our work below.

Share the Dignity sanitary items collection drive

Share the Dignity is a not-for-profit organisation that collects and distributes sanitary items for women in need. From 19 August to 30 September the USASA counters at each of the four University of South Australia metro campuses (Magill, Mawson Lakes, City East and City West) will be designated collection points. Donations will be counted weekly at each campus and posted online to promote healthy competition among campuses to see who can donate the most. These products will be taken to Share the Dignity where they will be packed up and distributed to homeless women and other women in need of these items.

Adelaide fashion designer and UNITE participant Belinda Zanello will be making a dress out of pads and tampons to turn heads and raise awareness of one of the issues that homeless women have to face regularly. Thank you to TSUNO for providing the materials to make the dress. The final product will be revealed at the International Women’s Development Agency #SheSpeaks panel discussion on Friday 30 September to conclude the collection campaign.

An exciting addition to this campaign will be the use of a hashtag #bloodyhell to raise further awareness on social media. Anyone can get involved – let’s end the stigma associated with periods and start a discussion on how to make things easier for homeless women during “that time of the month”.

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Community sleepout for Vinnies

On 19 August a number of students from the University of South Australia will be sleeping outside at the City West campus to raise awareness of homelessness. Leading up to this we will be collecting donations for the St Vincent de Paul Society (SA) online and through pop-up food stalls throughout August. On the night the team will be organising a number of activities, stalls and guest speakers, some of whom have personally experienced what it’s like to be homeless. All donations will go to Vinnies to be used to provide supplies to those who are homeless in South Australia.

Donate to the campaign here.

Two weeks in South Africa

In May I travelled to South Africa as a part of the International Scholar Laureate Program Delegation on International Relations and Diplomacy (it’s not nearly as pretentious as it sounds!). Thanks to the generous donations from family, friends and the Mount Barker District Council, a partial scholarship from ISLP and utilising the OS-HELP loan system I was able to pay tuition fees and air fares.

I spent two incredible weeks visiting universities and organisations working towards making South Africa a better place. The trip included a number of visits, including: the Apartheid Museum; Constitutional Court (at my suggestion); The Valley of 1000 Hills; the US embassy in Pretoria; the Afro-Middle East Centre; and ACCORD. When the main program was complete we travelled to Kruger National Park and spent two days on safari – which has been on my bucket list for ages!

I thought I’d share a few things I learned while on my journey:

  • Australia is really behind in the equal rights movement.
    Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 1994 and no-one blinks an eye at it. We are twenty-two years behind South Africa in this area.
  • Some people are over Nelson Mandela.
    When we visited universities, we met students who claimed they were sick of the way that Mandela has been hailed as a messiah figure in media. At the end of the day, he was a very good politician who knew how to rally the people.
  • In SA it is acceptable to use the terms black, white and coloured…
    This felt really weird to hear on a regular basis.
  • Durban is beautiful, but the beaches are covered in debris.
    Litter is a big problem 😦
  • Bunny chow does not contain actual bunnies.
    It’s just a quirky name for a delicious curry-filled loaf of bread. Mmmm

If you’re interested in the International Scholar Laureate Program, click here.

How to fund your study overseas despite being a broke uni student

So you’re a broke uni student dreaming of travelling overseas, but don’t have the funds? I’ve applied for multiple scholarships, loans and grants for my trips to Japan (and soon South Africa). I guess you could say I’m somewhat of an expert at finding money (or just stubborn) to pay for my travels. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of ways to get your vital funds…

OS-HELP loans

As a university student you are eligible to receive two OS-HELP loans that gets added to your HECS-HELP debt. Remember, this is a LOAN, so you are required to pay it back later through the tax system. However, you don’t get charged interest on this like you would if you took out a bank loan.

The maximum amount you can borrow in 2016 for a six-month study period is:

  • $6,470 (if you will not be studying in Asia); or
  • $7,764 if you will be studying in Asia; and
  • an additional $1,035 if you will be undertaking Asian language study in preparation for study in Asia.

Since each student can only take out two loans (regardless of the amount), I chose to borrow the full amount I was able to each time. Be sure to choose what amount works best for your financial needs.

Travel grants and scholarship opportunities

Many universities offer travel grants to students planning to complete part of their studies with a partner university overseas. My university has travel grants for full semester exchanges, short term exchanges and study tours. Check with your financial and/or student exchange services administrators what you are eligible for.

If you are member of the Golden Key Honour Society you can apply for certain scholarships on their website. These are very competetive and are open to university students from around the world, so I would recommend a back-up plan.

New Colombo Plan (study in Asian countries)

The New Colombo Plan is an initiative of the Australian government to send students to Asian countries as part of their tertiary studies. If you wish to study or take part in a Hawke Ambassador project in an Asian country the Australian government may subsidise some of your costs. Ask your student exchange coordinator for more information.

I received a $7000 scholarship to study in Japan and one of my classmates received a $5000 scholarship to undertake a Hawke Ambassador Project in Indonesia as part of the New Colombo Plan.

JASSO scholarship (Japan)

If you apply to study a Japanese language program in Japan you may be eligible for the JASSO scholarship awarded to high achieving students. JASSO scholarship recipients receive 80,000 yen each month, paid by the Japanese government.

As far as I’m aware recipients do not need to apply directly for this, your eligibility is determined when you apply for your studies at the host university.

It is possible to receive both the JASSO scholarship and New Colombo Plan scholarship at the same time as they are initiatives of the Japanese and Australian governments, respectively.

Crowdfunding

If you have really supportive friends and family you can try launching a crowdfunding campaign on websites like OzCrowd, Patreon or Go Fund Me and ask them to donate.

Be aware that a lot of people you know may be in a similiar financial situation to you and can’t donate, regardless of how much they want to help you.

Good luck with funding your study abroad ventures! 

What can I do for YOU?

It has come to my attention that the language used in my fundraising campaign may come across as a purely taking relationship, and for this I apologise.

It was not my intention for this to be a one-way transaction. 

For any one who has donated or plans to donate in the future I offer the following services:

  • Japanese-English translation (up to JLPT N3 equivalent texts)
  • Proofreading and editing documents
  • Reception/administrative services
  • Retail/sales work
  • Freelance writing

Please message me to arrange what I can do for you in return for your generous contributions.

Donations can be made at the first link below until March 31st 2016.

LINKS TO INFORMATION

Current fundraising campaign

Information on the Delegation to SA

Previous campaign

 

South Africa update

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In February I asked for support from friends and family to help me raise funds to pay the deposit for an International Relations and Diplomacy Delegation to South Africa as part of the International Scholar Laureate. My goal was $900.

An unbelievable $1000 was pledged to my campaign – thank you to Ally, Kay, Dee, Pauline, Blake, Andrew and Nick … for donating.

I have successfully registered my application and paid for the trip deposit. I could not have done this without the support of these generous people.

I am currently raising funds to help cover the cost of the rest of the trip – broken down into:

  • Tuition: USD $3395 /AUD $4750
  • Air fare: approx. AUD $1500

I understand that it is not fair to expect to receive financial support from others. That is why I only ask you to consider donating if you are able to financially. I plan to approach organisations in my area to request sponsorships, apply for travel grants and sponsorships and, as a last resort, take out a personal loan to cover the rest of the expenses.

I truly am so grateful to the people who have helped me with this fundraising campaign, or shown me support even when they are unable to contribute financially.

LINKS TO INFORMATION

Current fundraising campaign

Information on the Delegation to SA

Previous campaign