VC's Update - reducing the stigma around mental illness

6 October 2017

Hello everyone

National Mental Health Week starts on Sunday and Tuesday is World Mental Health Day.  This is a timely opportunity to talk about how we can look out for each other and reduce the stigma around mental illness.

This year's theme for Mental Health Week is Stronger Together. I talk a lot about how important the ANU community is and how remarkable I find the way we all come together to celebrate and console each other when times are difficult. But one in five Australians are affected by mental illness, and many of us won't seek help or support because of the stigma. If we can look out for one another as a community and encourage people to seek help, the more we can help to promote mental health in a positive light.

For staff, the University offers a number of Mental Health First Aid courses, as well as employee assistance and mindfulness programs.

ANUSA is running a number of activities on Tuesday as part of World Mental Health Day and I want to reassure students that we are continuing to look at ways we can improve access to counselling services. Our new agreement with the National Health Co-op gives students access to bulk-billed psychological services and in the next few weeks a full-time psychologist will begin at the ANU Health Centre. In the lead up to the exam period we will also be putting on extra ANU counsellors.

Whether or not we experience mental illness, I think it's important we all look after our mental health and wellbeing. Look after yourself, and each other, and if you think you see a colleague or friend is struggling, check in with them and let them know you're there to help.

As I mentioned in last week's blog I'm in Asia at the moment. Earlier in the week we signed an MoU with Ritsumeikan University to enable students from each institution to graduate with two degrees after four years of study. This agreement came about after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited our campus in July 2014 - 32 years after his own father visited ANU as Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

On Tuesday night the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne for their work on the LIGO experiment, which made the first observations of Gravitational Waves. ANU researchers played an integral role in this amazing discovery - leading the Australian contribution to LIGO and supplying equipment and techniques used in the Advanced LIGO detectors. The discovery of gravitational waves has led to a new age of unlocking the secrets of the Universe and I congratulate everyone involved in this amazing scientific endeavour.

I'm delighted to announce we have shortlisted three teams for the final stages of the ANU Grand Challenges. The Grand Challenge proposals cover personalised medicine, bio-inspired engineering and zero-carbon energy. A public 'pitch' by the finalists will be held on Tuesday 31 October as part of the final decision-making process and I encourage everyone to come along and hear about some great research happening at ANU. More information about the event will be available here shortly. I'd like to thank all researchers for their time and efforts in submitting a great range of projects and ideas.  And remember, this is just the beginning. We'll have more challenges over the next few years, and we want to find ways to do many of the ideas that have emerged from this process. For me, it has been fun to watch all everyone thinking outside the normal bounds of what we do, and working with new people to think about how to change the world.

Brian