HSE commission UCD student to manage campaign:
THE PLEASE Talk campaign is set to be re-launched in third-level institutions across the country in March 2009 and will be headed up by four UCD students. Former Students’ Union (SU) President, Barry Colfer, has been commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to head up the national campaign.
The Please Talk campaign is now part of the Strategic Mental Health Strategy, and will be run in conjunction with the National Office for Suicide Prevention. The successful application for campaign funding was made to the National Strategic Innovation Fund in June by former UCD Chaplain, Fr Tony Coote and Mr Colfer.
It is hoped that the campaign can be re-launched next semester, a year after the introduction of the national campaign. However, Mr Colfer rejected criticism of a lack of promotion of the Please Talk campaign on the UCD campus this semester, argung that its importance has not been lost on new students. “In the first year guide, there is a page dedicated to the Please Talk campaign, so first years would have been exposed to it from the beginning”.
Acknowledging the campaign’s “wilted” presence on campus, Vice-President for Students, Dr Martin Butler stated that campus promotion of the campaign has “probably slipped below the level of importance that it is meant to be at”. Dr Butler suggested that “a mistake” has been made as promotion of the campaign has subsided in recent months, something which he defended, saying that with “any campaign; you launch the campaign, it has a huge impact and then it just decreases over time”.
When questioned about the current lack of SU involvement in the Please Talk campaign, SU Welfare Officer, Conor Fingleton, affirmed that more will be done to advertise the campaign in the second semester, but argued that “it’s just not possible to do everything”.
Detailing the other welfare events that he has organised, Mr Fingleton admitted that part of the reason for the lack of promotion was that “we had so much on”. This sentiment was echoed by SU Campaigns and Communications Officer, Dan O’Neill, who said that he would “hate to feel that the SU wasn’t getting out the message”.
Mr Colfer is currently working on a voluntary basis for the HSE while attempting to introduce the Please Talk campaign to third-level campuses around the country. When the campaign is re-launched in March, Mr Colfer, along with former SU Welfare Officer Vivan Rath, and former SU Education Officer, Ronan Shanahan will be employed by the HSE to oversee the national campaign.
Funding received from the HSE will be used to “break the back of the campaign” cost, according to Mr Colfer. All advertising materials, such as promotional posters, pens and t-shirts have been purchased by the individual universities involved, something which Mr Colfer described as “not a particularly expensive habit”.
Please Talk is a campaign which aims to encourage students who are struggling with anxiety and depression to make contact with university support services. Please Talk began in UCD in February 2007 in response to the death by suicide of a student and was adopted by six universities in March 2008.
The University Observer attempted to contact the HSE but had not received comment at the time of going to print.