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More than one day in September

For TAFE Illawarra, our first year of involvement with R U OK? Day saw events across all the Campuses, including provision of morning tea to staff and students

We humans are social creatures by nature and that has a multitude of benefits. In fact, 'to connect' is one of the New Economics Foundation's "Five Ways to Wellbeing". Their research has found that spending time with friends, family and colleagues and nurturing those relationships is an effective way to improve your personal wellbeing.

Back in 2011, as a means to encourage wellbeing of staff and students, the Careers & Counselling Service and Student Association at TAFE Illawarra worked together to promote R U OK? Day .The aim of the day, which is held on the second Thursday in September, is to remind all Australians of the importance of asking our mates, colleagues and family "are you ok?" The vision is a world where everyone feels connected. Especially during times when they might be struggling with life.

The concept behind R U OK? Day is that "conversations can change lives". Their website states that if we regularly take time to talk face-to-face with friends, family and colleagues, it helps us develop and maintain strong relationships. And when we have these strong relationships, we are more likely to cope with life's ups and downs.

For TAFE Illawarra, our first year of involvement with R U OK? Day saw events across all the Campuses, including provision of morning tea to staff and students. With the refreshments, information was provided on how to start a conversation in order to ask "are you ok?" and contact details for support services. Institute management have been very supportive of the initiative. They even requested it become an annual event on the Institute's calendar and subsequently have provided financial support. Since then, the event has grown. Greater collaboration has meant more modelling of and encouraging the TAFE community to take up the benefits of connection.

So today at Wollongong Campus for this year's R U OK? Day ...

Community Services students are running large and small group activities for 170 Year 10 students at Keira High School and handing out information to the rest of the school during lunch. These TAFE students will also hold information stalls at a couple of neighbourhood and community centres in the local area to raise awareness about R U OK? Day on other days this week.

Lunchtime today will see the Community Services students working together with the Events and Music students to run different wellbeing activities for their fellow students. This includes a table tennis tournament and handing out conversation cards. Library and Careers & Counselling staff will help out with the lunch festivities and the Student Association continues to support the event by providing a free barbecue lunch for students and free giveaways. The Bakery students are contributing cupcakes iced in yellow with a black question mark that will be given out to students. Many of these activities are designed by the teachers with assessable components so that the students are simultaneously contributing to course requirements.

Staff aren't left out either – many wear R U OK? Day t–shirts. And morning tea is still delivered to tearooms with reminders to check in with their colleagues, friends and family members.

R U OK? Day is more than one day in September. The the conversations can happen every day.

Are you or a loved one feeling depressed or disconnected? Find help here.