Talking the talk

COLLEGE can be wonderful. The first foray into the adult world is exciting, enriching and full of promise. But being a student can also be stressful because of workload, lack of money, romantic relationships and worry about the future.

Please Talk, which has just marked its fifth birthday, is a nationwide initiative enabling students to unburden themselves in confidence within their campus.

Co-founder of the project, Barry Colfer says it is important for students to talk about problems.

“Please Talk is a positive mental-health initiative with two main objectives,” he says. “Firstly, the campaign has a core proactive message that ‘talking is a sign of strength’. This encourages students to talk to someone if they’re going through a tough time. Secondly, the website highlights the extensive supports available to students — counsellors, chaplains, support groups — on their respective campuses throughout Ireland, as well as other external information and services.

“It was initiated in UCD, in 2007, in response to the deaths of a number of students by suicide ... Please Talk is now present on 34 university and college campuses in Ireland (North and South) and reaches out to a quarter of a million students up and down the country.”

Colfer says students need to be able to talk to someone about their problems. “Being at college is a great opportunity for people, but it’s also often a challenging experience,” he says. “Many students are away from home and from the usual support structures of their immediate family. But with Please Talk, no problem is too big or too small. Students can seek help for literally any sort of problem or challenge they’re experiencing, such as financial worries, problems with where they’re living, mental or physical health issues, academic concerns, or if they’re just not feeling themselves and want to talk to someone about it.

“Please Talk sets out to encourage students and young people to talk, and to look for help as and when they need it. Equally, it encourages students to be mindful of those around them, in their classes, colleges and communities. It’s about keeping an eye out for your friends.”

Catherine Brogan, acting director for the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention, says: “It is a huge achievement to see how Please Talk has grown to become a national initiative. It supports the key messages of the National Mental Health Campaign in relation to talking to someone when times are tough, listening to someone in distress and stressing the importance of seeking help early. It also promotes the message that ‘you are not alone’ and that there is help and support available.”

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