Torrens University and Beyond Blue Launch Free Mental Health Course

Torrens University and Beyond Blue Launch Free Mental Health Course

Written by Renae Failla 

Warning: This article deals with the sensitive topic of suicide and mental health. If you (or someone you know) need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 available 24/7. You can also text 0477 13 11 14 from 12 pm to midnight for support.

It’s no surprise that during the first stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, 78% of Australians have claimed their mental health was impacted.

(PLoS ONE, Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.)

The very real fact is that people have taken their own lives as a result of the pandemic crisis for an abundance of reasons, be it the loss of jobs, the closing of small businesses, halts to education, life milestones and isolation.

To coincide with World Mental Health Day, Torrens University and Beyond Blue have joined forces to run a free online short course exploring experiences of people living with depression and their journeys.

The four-week course will begin on Monday 26th October 2020 and is titled Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience. While the course is presented by Torrens University lecturers, those who partake will also get to hear directly from people who have lived with depression as well as Beyond Blue representatives.

Kath Curry, General Manager of Health and Education at Torrens University comments “We talk a lot about mental health, but sometimes it can be difficult to know how to support someone from the outside looking in.” The course will aim to help people take the first step in supporting someone with their recovery journey by ultimately stepping into the shoes of someone who has had a first-hand experience.

The inevitable COVID spike in people experiencing depression and related symptoms has made it more important than ever to address mental health and equipping people with the tools to identify what depression looks like.

Georgia Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue stresses the variability of depression in each person “Depression may not look the same for everybody – and that’s why it’s important to learn the signs. It’s also important to note that depression doesn’t only affect the individual experiencing it, it also affects those around them. This course – designed by lived experience experts – will help people ‘on the outside’ to better  understand, connect with and respond to those living with depression.”

Meet Paul Grainger – Torrens University Australia Success Coach

We had a chat with Paul Grainger, Torrens University Australia Success Coach, Blue Voices member and mental health guest speaker. Paul is 27 years old and has experienced both anxiety and depression as well as a family history of suicide. For Paul, his first experiences of depression and suicidal thoughts began when he was only 16 and peaked again at the age of 23 where a myriad of thoughts ran through his head and he thought he was at the end of the road. Paul unknowingly took the steps to help himself ending up at the local hospital and being discharged 4 days later.

Since then, Paul has changed his perception and approach to life with the assistance of friends and work managers. Friends and colleagues have been ears to listen without inferring judgement or solutions which he believes is important and was exactly what he needed.

Amidst COVID-19, one of the most difficult times for many, Paul not only graduated with Bachelor of Business from Torrens University but has begun his role as a Success Coach. Paul stresses at this time it is imperative to be “radically kind to ourselves” and reframe every experience to “give pain purpose”.

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In preparation for the course, what are some tips that you would give to young people living with depression based on your own personal experience?

Simply, remove the pressure, explore your curiosity, let go of the expectations created by society; ‘you do you’, as the expression goes. Throughout school I was a dreamer, an entrepreneur, an athlete, an academic; there were so many pathways that I could pursue. And yet, I was also unable to look at myself in the mirror and, sometimes for months, be unable to get out of bed. Why? I’d built an enormous expectation for what I thought I was meant to achieve, none of which seemed possible. And every time I would look into the mirror, I would reaffirm this impossibility.

So, my suggestion for young people is simply, as cliché as it might be, to let go and allow what’s meant to come, come. With this too, be patient. It’s taken me almost 10 years to fully embody this philosophy; I just wish I’d be kinder to myself in that time and to enjoy more of the moments between then and now.

And finally, if I can be so bold, delete social media (or at least turn off notifications). Spend more time connecting with your friends and family and having fun.

 

What can we expect from the 4-week course: Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience?

Over the 4-week short course, participants will learn about depression directly from those with their own lived experiences. As they will see, depression looks different for everyone, and so they’ll hear from the stories of a range of men and women, young and older, to challenge stereotypes and spark conversations. What I love most about this course and why it’s going to be so impactful, is that it’s not presented from a ‘clinical’ point of view; it’s not esoteric and scientific; it’s real stories, real voices, and real insights into what it’s like and how we as family and friends can support one another better.

It will discuss what led up to the experience, the things that guide beliefs, values and expectations, the things that can help us during ‘low’ periods whilst also exploring the things we must do more of to help us stay well and prevent some of the early symptoms. In addition, some of the course content will be delivered by experienced Torrens University lecturers who have worked in the area of mental health for many years.

We know that warning signs of depression can be different from person to person but what are some key signs that individuals can look out for in their loved ones and friends?

If I am to look back on my own lived experience with depression as a school leaver and young adult, I’d see myself losing enthusiasm for the things I once loved to do; I’d see myself not going out for those bike rides any more, not wanting to go out to the go-kart track to race that weekend. I’d see myself cancelling plans with friends or, perhaps more often, I’d see myself not making any plans in the first place because I was terrified that when the day came, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house; I was terrified that people would notice or ask too many questions if I wasn’t as chatty as normal. 

I’d also see myself sleeping more – a lot more – and recognise the thought in my mind that my dreams created a better reality than reality itself; it was this destructive escape that I would be drawn to for months at a time. Of course, I would be so frustrated at my inability to ‘see the woods from the trees’ that I loathed my need to try and explain to people what was happening; relationships soured and my ability to deal with trivial challenges became harder and harder. It seemed so logical for me at the time to withdraw completely from society, self-sabotaging relationships and opportunities, not knowing of course that the one thing that was going to help me was the exact opposite.

Tell us more about how can we be a positive support to someone who is/has been suffering from depression?

It’s really important that friends don’t feel any pressure to be able to ‘solve’ anything. There’s a reason trained professionals like psychologists exist. To be a positive support to someone with depression can simply mean letting them know you’re there to listen, not to offer advice or prescribe any solutions, just to listen. By educating ourselves on what to look for, through resources like those available in the Understanding Depression MOOC, and by engaging with the Beyond Blue website, we can understand in greater depth what’s going on and perhaps fill our toolkit with tips and tools on the types of support that we can offer that won’t do more harm than good. In some of my darkest moments, I thought that I was ‘throwing everything away’ and had nothing to live for, and so to know that I had friends who were still there, and would still be there, for whenever I was ready, meant so much and gave me a reason to keep going.

Tell us one positive mantra that you love to live by?

Prayer, patience and perseverance.

Participants of the Understanding Depression: Learning from Lived Experience course will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course and it will require a 2-hour commitment each week.

For more information, to meet the people who share their experiences with depression in the MOOC, or to register go to: https://www.torrens.edu.au/understanding-depression-learning-from-lived-experience.

 Resources: 

Black Dog Institute https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/ 

World Mental Health Day https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/world-mental-health-day-2020

Lifeline Australia 13 11 14

You can also text 0477 13 11 14 from 12 pm to midnight for support.

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Melbourne Social Media Series: The Business Pivot

Melbourne Social Media Series: The Business Pivot

Written by Renae Failla

How are businesses pivoting and diversifying their product range during COVID-19 to re-emerge stronger than ever?

 

Westpac’s SME COVID-19 response report revealed that 49 per cent of Australian small businesses have changed the way they function due to the COVID-19 hit. For most this has been in the form of adding additional products and services 29%, shifting business to online 21% and transferring the focus of their business 19%.

 

With a plethora of new businesses popping up during the last couple of months and the diversification of almost every business, we have been noting the trends.

 

Shift to online

 

Firstly, although we do live in a digital age – it is interesting to note that pre-COVID many businesses did not have an online presence. Considering your local cafe, butcher, florist or supermarket – many shoppers were so accustomed to visiting the store and deciding what they wanted to buy on the spot, however, there has now been a forced shift to online.

 

Australian Study conducted by McKinsey & Co surveying Australian customers suspects that post COVID-19 or during a COVID Normal 25%-65% of customers will make a portion of their purchases online in most categories while 70 -145% anticipate they will make all of their purchases online. This spans not only groceries, apparel and household supplies but also makeup, snacks, alcohol etc.

 

Small business tip: Websites such as Wix, WordPress, Squarespace and Shopify are becoming a must for small businesses to rise in the online space.

 

Identify and push products within your business that meet current consumer needs

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 Pandemic has forced a sudden shock on consumption and consumer spending with partial and total lockdowns all around the world. This has resulted in a change in what consumers are buying and prioritising which is consequentially pushing businesses and retailers to adapt and push products that weren’t normally selling as well.

Namely, there has been an identifiable increase in the purchasing of loungewear, candles, masks, care packages, graze boxes, pre-packed groceries and takeaway items as consumers seek convenience and value with stay at home orders. Many businesses are recognising this need and the products they already have to centre marketing campaigns around this.

One retailer that is paving the way and demonstrating its adaptability, placing relevant products front of mind to their consumers is The Iconic.

Now including a #StayHome section – you are able to find all relevant items such as workout wear, WFH footwear and even face masks all in one unique hub.

A shoutout to small business in Metro Melbourne, Mini-Me Mango @minimemango cafe who have managed to utilise their current staff members to do free delivery within 5km of the store. Noticeably with tighter restrictions, they have also expanded their takeaway menu offering and pushed items like their vegan donuts which are a perfect gift for #isobirthdays.

JAX Tyres for Ponderings

Change/add to your product range

For other businesses, the pandemic has forced the introduction of additional product ranges and offerings to majorly pivot and remain operable at this time of uncertainty.

Harvard Business Review advises that a pivot to the product range and offering for restaurants could be “to offer a flat rate for a set number of meals per week or per month, with limited menu choices” or “to offer a combination of precooked dishes with sides or additions that could be prepared at home using ingredients supplied by the restaurant. The restaurant could send a link to a video that walks the customer through preparation, thus incorporating an experiential and learning element.”

This pivot has successfully been undertaken by a local Italian restaurant who hit the nail on the head for Father’s Day, offering customers a ‘homemade cannoli kit’, keeping the brand front of mind and ensuring their customers felt as if they were eating cannoli together in the restaurant.

In the same way, businesses from all categories learnt to respond to the shortage of face masks and sanitiser around the world and jumped on the trend quickly – especially with the introduction of mandatory face masks in many places.

Open a new business based on new talents

Stay at home orders and significant job losses have urged people to become more creative, trying new things and learning new talents that have eventuated to a surge in new small businesses.

In fact, the ABC reports, “There were 253,529 new business names registered between January and July this year, compared with 222,516 over the same period last year,” proving how individuals have become more malleable and adaptable than ever to hasten future ideas and dreams.

CCIWA chief economist Aaron Morey has indicated that they are now seeing startups that respond to changing consumer demands as well as a surge in consultancy type businesses.

Small business tip: If you have started creating your own candles in your garage, learnt how to arrange aesthetically pleasing platters for graze boxes or been busy sewing garments throughout the night – now is the time to take that plunge and carry out your dreams.

If you have either started a new business, diversified your product range or shifted to online during the COVID-19 pandemic we would love to hear your success stories! And if you’re busy working on your new Business Strategy and need someone to ramp up your Social Media strategy post COVID-19, Melbourne Social Media can help! To get in touch, email renaelaurenfailla@gmail.com or call 0448 875 934.

Instagram: @melbournesocialmedia

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Interview with Debb Oliver – The Monkey Brush

Interview with Debb Oliver – The Monkey Brush

Written by Renae Failla

Skyrocketing to fame only months ago,

Debb Oliver has become somewhat of a household name in the Australian digital illustration industry after one illustration, in particular, was brought to the attention of a very famous Family.

Debb modified the group photo of Chandler Powell, Bindi, mum Terri and brother Robert on Bindi’s wedding day by adding their dog Piggy, her father the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and his beloved dog Sui. Through social media and word of mouth, the family saw the heartwarming illustration in no time.

 

Originally from Brazil, Debb moved to Australia as a teenager and now resides in Sydney with her two boys and husband. Her personalised watercolour portraits are her speciality and almost every piece features nature, her second passion.

Now fully booked until 2021, we were lucky enough to snag an interview with the talented woman behind The Monkey Brush.

 

 

Tea or coffee?

Coffee before 11 am, and tea after 🙊

Dogs or cats?

Love cats, but, dogs

What is your perfect day?

Good food, family, good music and a pretty summer sunset 😍

Where does the name ‘The Monkey Brush’ come from?

I worked at a childcare centre teaching arts. There was this beautiful boy called Ethan, who was so sweet and curious. At the time I was also studying biology and we would spend a long time outside naming every bug and plant.

I told him possums loved eating the flower “bottle brush” and he loved hearing about how I’d collect them fresh every night for my rescued orphan baby possums. Every time he was cheeky, I’d affectionately call him monkey. And one day when he saw me, he asked me if I had found some “monkey brush” flowers for my possums. I thought it was the sweetest thing.

I often wonder where he is in life, and when it came time to choose a business name, I thought of that special little boy.

Tell us a bit more about the portrait of Bindi Irwin, her family and her late father Steve Irwin.

As I said, I have a diploma in Biology and I must say Steve and Terri were my biggest inspiration alongside Dr Jane Goodall. I cried for days when he passed, and I kept loving his family. I’m a huge animal lover, and the work they do is just unbelievable. When Bindi got married, I had this mix of emotions.

I was so happy for her but so sad that Steve didn’t get to walk her down the aisle. I decided to draw the portrait of her family on her wedding day and include Steve and Sui. I posted on my social media, she saw it, thanked me, sent me gifts, made it her profile picture on Facebook, posted it on her social media and I flew to QLD to personally give it to her on her birthday.

I met all the Irwins and they were more amazing then I could ever have imagined. The story was featured in 17 different papers and it’s been the highlight of my career. Can’t wait to draw them again when Bindi has her baby.

JAX Tyres for Ponderings

How did Bindi find out about the piece?

A lot of people tagged her on my posts.

 

What inspired you to paint this portrait?

My immense love for them and the wonderful work they do.

 

Describe your encounter with the Irwin Family.

It was unbelievable. Due to COVID, we couldn’t get too close to them, but Bindi kept saying she wished we could hug and I had to contain myself lol. I got to share that amazing experience with my two kids and they loved it as much as I did. It was incredibly special.

 

Describe 3 of your favourite pieces.

  1. The Irwin portrait.
  2. One called “to parish in paradise” where I illustrated how difficult but fulfilling motherhood is.
  3. And One called ’empty arms ‘ where I honour mothers who have lost babies or couldn’t conceive. I lost 4 babies and it’s a very important theme for me, and I’m glad I can use my art to bring some healing to others.
  4. What advice would you give any budding artists out there who are either looking to start their own businesses or to have their artwork displayed in galleries?

    Work hard, value your work, practice every single day, be kind to people and trust the process.


    How old were you when you started drawing?

    I can’t remember. My mum is sure I came out of the womb holding a pencil. Lol


    Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?

    I’m firstly a mum, trying to juggle life, family, work, etc. I sleep 4 hours a night on average and I draw around 8-9 hours a day, and I still have to do admin and maintain social media. I also have an autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia. People assume working with art is easy. It’s not! It’s hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m grateful for the support I receive, and the privilege of working with what I love.


    How can Ponderers get their own portrait?

    I’m fully booked at the moment for the next 12 months, but people can subscribe to be notified when I’m available for commissions again by clicking on a link on my Instagram bio or my website which I’ll be launching towards the end of September 🥳


    You can add your name to the 2021 waitlist here.


    To check out an array of Debb’s inspiring artworks, head to her Instagram page.

 

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The Inside Files of The Mysterious Banksy

The Inside Files of The Mysterious Banksy

Written by Renae Failla

Who is the real Banksy? Or who do we think he can be?

 

In 2010, Banksy was considered one of Time Magazine’s most influential people alongside the likes of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Lady Gaga. There are many theories and speculations of who the real ‘Banksy’ could be. In fact, you will find Google and YouTube littered with their takes on who he could possibly be based on attempted unmaskings and geographical profiling, a technique which has been used by investigators to work out offenders probable origins. 

Banksy has literally left his mark on cities throughout the world anonymously. Some popular opinions claim that he could be Robin Banx, this was the name he used during his teenage days around Bristol, England. This theory also correlates to a story where a young boy named Azarya was gifted a $30,000 painting signed by the artist after helping him pick up his fallen paintbrushes on a New York train – he provided the name, Robin Banks. 

The boy had described Banksy to be a white man in his late 40s and this might actually be the only legitimate information on the artist if this was indeed him. 

Other accounts claim he could be a team of 7 people or Robin Gunningham, a consequence of geographical profiling which discovered a graffiti artist by the name in Bristol.

Image credit/ Canon Snapper – Artwork: Banksy

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What does he stand for and what drives his passion?

We may never know who the ‘real’ Banksy is – and many of his biggest fans prefer not to know. Instead, they hold a strong passion for what he stands for. Banksy derives his notoriety through his satirical and subversive politically inclined art. 

He achieves this by utilising a stencilling graffiti technique which enables him to garner a political edge to his art. Additionally, the graffiti technique helps to add a layer of history- “they have been used to start revolutions and stop wars,” he says. 

In interviews, Banksy has shared that from a young age, he always had issues with police and authority figures, this alone could be the underlying reasons why his work often depicts political figures in satirical ways. 

Banksy is never one to follow the status quo, often doing the very opposite making a fool of the world of art which gives him his anonymous notoriety and source of income.

Image credit: Warchild Artwork: Banksy

Banksy is very aware of his audience and the platform he has been given with the shift of the 20th century, telling a friend in an interview:

“There’s a whole new audience out there, and it’s never been easier to sell [one’s art],” he continues, “You don’t have to go to college, drag ’round a portfolio, mail off transparencies to snooty galleries or sleep with someone powerful, all you need now is a few ideas and a broadband connection.This is the first time the essentially bourgeois world of art has belonged to the people. We need to make it count,” this is the attitude that has turned him into a household name and obtaining that name goes against what he stands for.

What has he done?

The mediums, locations and continually new pieces to his collection make it difficult to keep track of all of his artworks. Some of his well-known artworks include the Banksy Monkey Parliament, displayed at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, One Nation Under CCTV in London, Sweep it Under the Carpet in London and Kissing Coppers in Brighton.

In addition to his graffiti artworks and what seems to spark the interest of many are his documentary, his pop up exhibition Dismaland and his self-destructive auctioned artwork.

In 2010, Banksy worked on a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Calling it ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop,’ the film tells the real story of how a strange French shopkeeper became a documentary maker attempting to discover and befriend Banksy. 

Banksy reverses the camera back onto the owner, once again protecting his anonymity. Banksy maintains that he is ‘unfilmable’. Many speculated that Banksy would show in disguise when the film was nominated for an Academy Award, but once again were left disappointed.

 

(Image credit: Banksy)

Dismaland, the Bemusement Park was a temporary art project that took place in an abandoned resort in Weston-super-Mare, UK.

In 2015, Banksy worked with other well-known artists to create the exhibition that took a mischievous twist on Disneyland. The tagline to the exhibition was ‘The UK’s most disappointing new visitor attraction!’.

Banksy funded the exhibition himself asserting that it was a Family Amusement park that was unsuitable for children. There were 4000 tickets available each day for the duration of 5 weeks which unsurprisingly all sold out.

 

More recently, Banksy’s painting of ‘Girl With Balloon’ had just sold for $1.4m in 2018 and to the shock of many onlookers, an alarm went off once it sold and the painting shredded right in front of their eyes. Banksy claims that it turned the exhibition itself into a work of art as it makes a mockery of auctions and the art industry altogether. 

Many considered it a PR stunt which inevitably raised the prices of his pieces.

Why are people so fascinated by him?

It can be said that people are so fascinated by Banksy due to his elusiveness and the unknown factor where they are constantly left wondering who could be responsible for the artwork. It seems the fascination is not even so much by his skill but more so the fact that he has managed to remain a mystery all around the world for so many years. 

For Banksy, anonymity has created a buzz and fame that he would never tap into from being associated with an image.

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