Home News National art competition to inspire lifesaving conversations

National art competition to inspire lifesaving conversations


National art competition to inspire lifesaving conversations

In Australia, around one in seven young people experienced a mental health disorder in the past year, but more than half do not seek professional help – an issue that can have tragic consequences.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians aged 15-24.

In an effort to address the mental health concerns of school-aged children, suicide prevention charity R U OK? is inviting schools from across Australia to inspire conversations that count through the R U OK? National Student Art Competition.

The competition will celebrate the creativity of students in Years 7 and 8 who through the power of art will represent what an R U OK? conversation means to them.

Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw aka ‘Will and Woody’, became friends in school and hope to inspire other great mates to start meaningful conversations. The hosts of the KIIS FM National Drive Show will join the competition judging panel.

“It took us years to have a real conversation about what was going on for Will,” Whitelaw said. “I knew he wasn’t OK. I just didn’t know how to ask, I didn’t want to make it worse,”

Whitelaw’s experience is not uncommon.

Research from R U OK? found the top reasons young people didn’t ask, ‘are you OK’ when they thought someone was struggling were:

  • 3 in 5 felt it wasn’t their place to ask
  • half were afraid they would make the situation worse.

“Since we started talking about what was really going on for Will, we’ve never been closer. In turn, he’s been there for me as I navigate the highs and lows of life that we all experience,” Whitelaw said. “We hope this competition gets young people talking, people like the younger Will and Woody.”

McMahon wants young people to know their support can make a difference.

“During times when I’ve not been OK, Woody’s support has meant I don’t feel alone,” McMahon said. “Learning how to be a good friend and ask, ‘are you OK? can be life saving skills, and we’re looking forward to seeing the creative ways students represent this in their entries.”

R U OK? are inviting students to create an individual artwork under the theme: What does an R U OK? conversation mean to you?  

Students are encouraged to respond to the brief as they interpret it. Artwork might explore when a friend was there for them or when they were there for a friend. It might represent how a meaningful conversation makes them feel. It might encourage others to check in with their mates any day of the year or represent ideas of how they might support someone they care about. 

“Art has a unique ability to start conversations and foster understanding,” Dr Hannah Brown, R U OK? Education and Young People Manager, said. “By engaging students creatively, R U OK? want to get young people thinking about how they can support each other and the many forms of mateship.”

Entries are limited to two per school. Prizes include art supplies and for winners, an invitation to a prizegiving event at the Art.

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