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Year 12 exams are nearly over, which means school leavers are letting their hair down and starting to celebrate. Schoolies events are on the radar of parents and teachers, and Year 11 students may be starting to plan their own celebrations for next year. Preparation is key, so it's a good time to start having conversations about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Australian Schoolies ritual.

Schoolies events are viewed by many as a rite of passage for adolescents, marking their transition into adulthood, greater independence, and a highly-anticipated life after twelve years of schooling. The event is seen as an opportunity to unwind after exams, have fun with friends, build new relationships, and create shared memories [1]. Research also shows, however, that excessive alcohol consumption is considered by many adolescents to be an integral part of the Schoolies experience [1, 2]. 

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In recent years we've seen greater acceptance and communication around the topic of mental health. We've also seen a growing number of initiatives aimed at reducing stigma and increasing support for people who are struggling with mental health issues.

During the month of October, communities across NSW will come together and hold events to celebrate Mental Health Month, which coincides with World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. This year the focus is on sharing the journey: promoting positive social connections to help people cope with mental health issues, build resilience, and improve their wellbeing.

Bullying, and in particular cyberbullying, can have a serious impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Students involved in cyberbullying have poorer mental wellbeing [1], and higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and substance abuse [2]. 

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Social support is central to our psychological and physical wellbeing, and can buffer against the effects of stress and illness [1]. When families, friends and communities reach out and offer support, it can have a profound impact on the lives of vulnerable people, including children and adolescents. A simple and effective way to offer that support to the people in your world is by asking, "are you OK?"

Thursday 14 September 2017 is R U OK? Day, a day which reminds us all that we have got what it takes to ask, "are you OK?", and support those struggling with life.

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Loneliness is real and it affects people right across the country – in  fact a 2016 Lifeline survey found 60% of Australians often feel lonely. While loneliness for some is related to physical distance from people they can relate to, for many it’s the fact that they’re surrounded by people but feel a lack of connection and social support. The good news is there are ways of keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay for ourselves and others in our community. 

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Brainstorm Productions’ travelling theatre groups for schools have been captivating hundreds of thousands of children across Australia for thirty years. Here’s why. 

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play,” says Philip Pullman, children’s author and winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Picture books, and later, fiction form the bedrock of our childhood. Many of us not only remember the exact picture from a favourite book we read before bed as a child, we remember the thoughts and emotions we experienced at that time. Picking up the book years later is like looking into a crystal ball, and being sucked back into our past. It’s a direct link to who we were as kids.

Likewise, we hear a song on the radio we haven’t listened to since childhood, and we can recall every word, and can anticipate the next note. 

Theatre is the ultimate immersive art form, targeting every sense simultaneously. It makes complete sense then that the only memory I have of the Year Two split classroom is sitting in the audience at Ross Hill Public School, in Inverell, watching Brainstorm Productions’ H-Team. My memory typically isn’t that great, yet I remember the buttery colour of the room. Where I was sitting in relation to the rest of the kids. Where the teachers stood. The bright colours the actors wore. The words they spoke. The tunes they sang. How I felt at the time. Just as you recall key details about the absolutely best Christmas you ever had as a kid, Brainstorm’s primary school productions leave a strong imprint on your memory.

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