When I told people that I would be spending my weekend – both entire days, Saturday and Sunday! – doing university-related things instead of enjoying the sub-Summer temperatures like the rest of Brisbane, many people told me that something must’ve been wrong or I needed the extra credit.
Although there might be some aspects that I tend to agree with, the pros, and my reasoning to participate in the event far outweighed the cons. Over the duration of Saturday and Sunday I attended and participated in a conference that was run by Impact Social Enterprise focusing on a topic that is quite near and dear to my heart; mental illness. I identify as much more than just a university student; a young woman, with friends and family that have previously been, and still are, affected by mental illness, so I felt it absolutely imperative for me to attend. Anything I can do to help reduce the negative stigma surrounding mental illness, I will do. Night or day. Weekday or weeknight. The discussion surrounding mental illness is one that I am definitely passionate about and was so pleased to see other young Australians of all different backgrounds in attendance.
With attendees ranging in age from seventeen to late twenties, it was interesting to learn the reasons that led us to the conference varied for each person. There were international students who were there to meet new people but to also discuss the tribulations that their friends had faced when trying to overcome adversity both whilst on exchange in Australia and also how to cope once they return home. There were high school students who were wanting to discuss how to better equip both themselves and their friends to deal with the ‘real world’ once they graduate and are finished nursing their hangovers from ‘Schoolies’. Then there were other people who were like me, who were either about to finish their degree, undertaking their second one or were just conscious of the active role that they play in eradicating mental illness. Overall it was a varied and different group of people who all had different thoughts and ideas about mental illness. Having such a diverse group of people present was what I believe, made the conference such a success.
After keynote speakers spoke on day one, we were broken into teams to discuss both different aspects of mental health and how different groups or demographics can be effected. The challenge was to then design a social enterprise solution for several gaps that are occurring both within the mental health sector and also support services. Through the attained insight from the conference all teams were able to successfully find holes within their niche support services and sector and correctly determine how their social enterprise would facilitate overcoming the pre-existing issues. Within my team, I was partnered with two incredibly smart young women who were doing very different degrees to myself. We chose to look at the disabled demographic within Australia and more so the percentile of disabled Australians that were effected by mental health. We devised a plan to enable both open lines of further communication within this community to empower them and give them the sense of belonging and acceptance that is so freely given to members of the greater community. Over the two days we heard from a huge range of people, from social enterprise entrepreneurs, charity and not-for-profit starters, yogis and everyone in-between. For me, mental health and the discussion that needs to be had about it, is worth more than its weight in gold. I have lost far too many friends and family to suicide. If these people were able to discuss their feelings and emotions rather than keeping it to themselves, maybe they would still be here today.
I can vividly recall on the first day a person who I had never met before walked up to me and asked me how my day was going, but really meant it. When I replied with the usual stock-standard, “yeah it’s going okay”, he then proceeded to ask me “and how are you?” and just stood there waiting for a response. I could’ve burst into tears. This was the most genuine interaction I have had with someone in a very long time. It is something that will stick with me for a long time, too.
With no word of a lie, the weekend was an outstanding success and the level of detail and planning that went into it was evident; from the love and the passion that you felt just walking into the room to the personal greetings, from the personalised touches including the goodie bags for each attendee, to the handmade snacks and lunches provided by other young small businesses owners. Finally, to the networking event on Sunday evening that showcased some of the best not-for-profits around explaining how to donate, assist them on their endeavours and even how to volunteer. Impact 2017 provided us with a stellar conference and event and I for one cannot wait for the next, so thank you QUT Business School for allowing me to participate in something that is so near and dear to my heart. Thinking back to my reasons for attending the conference and what I learnt over the duration of the two days, it reiterated that something is VERY wrong. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to be eradicated and if you and I don’t do something about it, who will?