College Academic Captain Sarah (pictured left), delivered a heartfelt speech appealing to secondary students to be true Rebel Girls by taking one small step, further empowering girls and reducing the stigma around mental health issues as we acknowledge International Day of the Girl and World Mental Health Day this week. Her words are below.

Bay Girls Acknowledging International Day of the Girl and World Mental Health Day

Good morning Mr Sloman, Mrs Stewart, SLT, staff, parents, girls and of course our incoming group of IYCs. It seems fitting that today we acknowledge the role of Inter Year Carer – a role which is all about girls supporting girls – especially in a week that coincides with two significant days in the international calendar, International Day of the Girl and World Mental Health Day.
This year’s theme for International Day of the Girl is ‘Girl Force: Unscripted and Unstoppable’. 2019 will celebrate achievements amongst girls, who are moving from dreaming for a better future to seeing real change.

25 years ago, more than thirty thousand women from over 200 different countries arrived in Beijing for the World Conference on Women, determined to advocate and fight for the rights of women and girls. Today, these same women and many, many more are promoting girls’ education, standing up against gender-based violence, advocating for financial change and creating a space where girls can support girls. 

We could just sit back and think: “Someone else will do these things.” But we shouldn’t. Our rights are our responsibilities. In the words of 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg: "We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable." Bay girls are a force to be reckoned with, and we need to show everyone that we are Unscripted and Unstoppable.

This leads nicely into the global conversation about mental health, particularly regarding the wellbeing of young girls. One in five Australians are affected by mental illness and there is a gender gap, with girls being around twice as like to have a probable serious mental illness. The research suggests that three in four adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24 and half by age 14 and that earlier support is key to ensuring positive outcomes in adulthood for children and adolescents who experience mental health issues. Yet so many don’t seek help because of the stigma surrounding it. 

For example, when our parents go to the GP seeking counselling, the GP warns them that they will be labelled and it will go on their medical records. How have we come to the point where one of your friends is struggling with something and she doesn’t dare go to the school counsellor because she might be labelled as ‘that girl who sees the counsellor’. 

We are all human. I sometimes think “maybe I’m not smart enough or pretty enough or good enough”. Maybe I should go talk to someone? Maybe we should all go talk to someone? Because it’s time to stop thinking we go to the counsellor because there is something wrong with us, and start thinking that it is healthy and normal to talk about our issues. In fact, seeking support is all part of taking responsibility for your own health and wellbeing, and shows courage and wisdom.

Thursday is World Mental Health Day, which aims to shed light on what everyone can do to look after their mental health, and reach out to those in need of support. The theme this year in Queensland is “Take Time for Mental Health”. Take time to ask yourself, am I doing ok? Use the five actions of Hearts and Minds as a checklist by asking: ‘Am I connecting with others, taking notice, learning new things, giving and being active? Take time to boost the mental wellbeing of those around you – ask ‘RUOK?’. Take time for mental health.

But this is all just talk. Talking won’t be enough. We need to take action. And it starts with us as individuals. What are you going to do? What am I going to do, to take action?

This year at Moreton Bay, we will recognise both International Day of the Girl and World Mental Health Day in a number of ways. On Thursday, a group of Seniors will support girls in donating their hair so that it can be used to make wigs for girls suffering from hair loss caused by conditions such as alopecia or cancer. This is especially poignant considering that this issue was so close to Mrs Brazier’s heart. Additionally, on Friday, Years 7 to 12 will view a documentary called ‘Angst’ which is designed to start a global conversation about mental health and raise awareness around anxiety. The week will finish on Friday afternoon, where Whitfield will hold their annual service activity to raise funds and awareness for their chosen charity Rosies. Rosies reaches out to people most in need who are marginalised and socially isolated, fighting for their rights and aiming to improve mental health. These activities will allow us as a community of Bay Girls to be Unscripted and Unstoppable, and to Take Time for Mental Health.

So girls as you go into this week, I encourage you to take one small step towards further empowering girls and reducing the stigma around mental health issues. This is another chance for us to Breathe the Flames and Become the Fire. Cut off your hair for those who need it more, engage with the documentary about mental health, support the Whitfield service activity or a women’s rights organisation, join one of our service groups like Amnesty or Leos, go see our counsellor, Mrs Taylor. 

It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but just do something. Show everyone what happens when girls support other girls. 

In the words of critically acclaimed, international advocate for women’s rights, Mrs Janet Stewart, “Bay Girls are Rebel Girls”, so let’s live up to that this week and be a force for mental health and girls everywhere. Thank you.

Sarah Luckensmeyer
College Academic Captain