The student suicide prevention initiative Please Talk has been officially launched nationwide following a national conference held on August 5th.
The campaign is now active in 33 education institutions in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and a national steering committee is being put in place to strategically direct the campaign.
Please Talk reaches out to students in 3rd level education and offers information on counselling services in their specific college or university, with the simple slogan “talking is a sign of strength, not weakness”.
UCD Students’ Union Welfare Officer Scott Ahearn believes this boost is necessary: “It’s great with the campaign being in so many colleges, but we need to look at them all together to re-energise the message, so everyone’s on the same page.”
However, Please Talk has been involved in controversy. In 2008, questions were asked over the massive grants that the initiative received from the HSE. When questioned about this, Ahearn stated that all accounts have been verified: “You can look at what happened in the past, but I think what is much more important is that finally we look forward.”
Please Talk was founded in UCD in 2007, in response to a number of student deaths on campus. The recently appointed Chairperson of the campaign, Aisling O’Grady, expressed her delight at the progress that the campaign has been making in UCD. O’Grady again emphasised the simple message: “What it is, is two messages, one, talking is really important, as well as sharing any issues and concerns you have. Secondly, this is how to get in touch with people who will help you, from your college.”
The Please Talk website has been redesigned, and the amount of students that it is reaching is at an all time high. Ms O’ Grady said: “I don’t think any campaign is ever perfect, but we’re doing our best to reach out to as many students, and it’s about 330,000 students now, through this campaign, through something which started in UCD, from people who cared in UCD, that is now going out to those 330,000 students.”
Please Talk is funded by both the HSE and fundraising. Ms O’Grady, however, maintained that although funding was an important issue, Please Talk was not to be mistaken for a “lobbying group”: “I don’t see that as the Please Talk role. It is a group of people, of communities, of students and staff, who work with young people coming together to say, please talk to us.”
The campaign is also working in conjunction with outside agencies such as reachout.com in organising national mental health weeks. Aside from Remembrance Day on November 1st this year, a candle-lit vigil is being organised to commemorate students who have passed away.
With regards the future of the campaign, Ahearn stated: “It’s important that people realise, looking at the message that Please Talk sends, that idea of being aware of student supports, and that we’re there for them, that’s the most important thing.”