Be Back Next Week

Just a reminder that the Online Counsellor is away for a week starting now. I will return to posting, reviews, Skype Drop-Ins and sessions from the 6th October 2015. You can still access information on this blog through past posts and the information available in the topics of interest section.

If you need help you can either contact counselling via phone or e-mail to make an appointment or you can refer to other online resources and services in the community.

Take care for now. I’ll be back soon…..


Last week I was madly searching the internet looking for a quality online resource or phone app that could help adults who were being bullied or people who were witness to bullying and wanted help with changing the situation. Imagine my disappointment when I could only find ones for kids. Whilst some of these looked good and certainly similar principles are applied in the circumstances I couldn’t bring myself to review a kids app for university students. So I took a different approach and started looking for apps around building resilience – again not a lot of free apps specifically around all the concepts of building resilience but on individual aspects there were a few.

So here I am using and reviewing the app Happier! Yes that’s right I am getting daily notifications to my phone reminding me to think positively. It’s doesn’t stop there though, I can use the app to connect with others, see there statements and photos of happiness they are sharing. These can by people all around the country or I can refine it to those that are nearby. It’s a little like Instagram in a way but instead of a like or heart button there is a smile button you can click if what you see makes you happy. There is also a courses section of the app where free and paid courses are offered online around a variety of topics like, gratitude, meditation, Yoga, Confidence, less stress and more calm.

To be honest I’m not sure I am really into this app myself, I feel like I might already have a fair few social media tools and this feels like another one to add to the bundle and could distract me from doing other things I should be doing (so if you are a procrastinator by trade don’t download this one). I love the idea of it sharing only happy things and the reminder notifications which positive affirmations as well as the connectedness to others in sharing these positive experiences but I’m not sure I feel any better about or stronger within myself than when I started a week and a half ago. I am giving the gratitude 10 day challenge course a go – after all it’s free and I must say so far so good.

So Happier as a resilience tool???? I should say it never claimed to be a resilience building tool, and to be honest it is only one type of strategy in what should be a pool of resources you use to build your self esteem. But Happier as a way of staying in touch with good mental health and wellbeing could be worth a look.

What’s good about it: There are a couple of free courses you can do on gratitude and meditation that are worth trying out.

What’s no so good about it: It feels like other social media apps like Facebook and Instagram but with a positivity filter applied!

Sharing your battles with mental health

“I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 14.

“For the next six years I spent my time running away from my diagnosis. I dropped out of high school and I found myself falling through life.

“Two years ago, I made the decision to reach out for help and receive treatment.

“With some incredibly supportive people, my life has turned around and I can now manage my depression.

“At the moment, I’m about to complete my first year of university — something I never thought possible.”

This is just one of the young people who are sharing their personal battles with mental health with the support of the Black Dog Institute. A small group of young people are doing this in hope of reaching out to others who might be experiencing similar things they did and trying the shed some light on what can seem like a dark place for some. You can check out more of the stories by reading the ABC article.


Spring Break

For quite a few of you it’s spring break for the next two weeks. For others its the middle of a trimester, or they are part way through or just starting a placement. For this first week of spring break I’ll still have the Skype Drop-In hours open and you can still make individual appointments with me. For the second week Skype Drop-Ins will not operate and I’ll be on a small break. During that week you will be able to access counselling in person across Ourimbah and Callaghan and if you are off campus then you can still get an initial appointment via telephone by calling 0249215801.

See it, hear it, then STOP it.

Bullying is a growing epidemic across the world, and Australia has not been spared. Whilst most of the research centers on bullying in secondary and primary education settings, or the workplace, statistics indicated 1 in 4 people are affected by bullying in person and this increases to as high as 64% experience cyber bullying.

There are a number of different definitions of bullying out there but overall there is agreement on the following experiences being necessary:

  • Incidents need to be repeated and deliberate
  • Incidents need to intent to use words or actions to hurt (physical, psychological) and humiliate
  • Incidents involve one or more people having power over another/others

Bullying isn’t a one off incident, it doesn’t refer to a disagreement or a single act where there was no intent or an apology follows the incident. Getting one or numerous bad marks on your assessments where feedback is provided isn’t bullying. Getting an unsatisfactory progress report on your PhD report despite positive feedback all semester and meeting your agreed upon tasks could be?

So what can we do to change these statistics? One of the most powerful interventions is by the bystander. Seventy percent of Australians do nothing when they see and hear bullying. They might be scared, afraid the bullying will turn to them if they say anything, or they may think it’s none of their business. But if a bystander intervenes then bullying can cease in under 10 seconds.

Let’s change bystanders into upstanders by:

  • Step in and tell the bullying the behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Report the bullying to someone, a lecturer, the Dean of Students, a counsellor
  • Approach the victim, let them know they are not alone and help them get help

Now you know what to look for and how you can help, what about helping the bully? Or what if you suspect you are the bully?

  • recognising and admitting the behaviour is a problem is the first step
  • Take responsibility for your thoughts and actions
  • Talk to someone about your behaviour and how you can change to more acceptable behaviours.
  • Stop, think and apologise
  • Get help from a counsellor

If you are still unsure or want some more information you can call the Bully Zero Australia Foundation on 1800028559 or use the Skype Drop-In hours to talk to the online counsellor and get some advice.


R U ok?

On Thursday 1oth September, ask someone – a mate, a colleague, an acquaintance – R U OK?

R U Ok day is about suicide prevention. Its about creating a day and opportunity to break down the stigma of mental health and suicide in the community and check in with the people in your life about how they are traveling.

1. Ask R U OK?

  • Start a general conversation – preferably somewhere private
  • Break the ice with a joke or an amusing story – the latest grumpy cat image or cat post could be a good way to start.
  • Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language
  • If you are stuck on how to start the conversation check out the check-in app for some ideas.

2. Listen without judgement

  • Guide the conversation with caring questions and give them time to reply
  • Don’t rush to solve problems
  • Help them understand that solutions are available when they’re ready
  • Summarise the issues and ask what they plan to do

3. Encourage action

  • Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor
  • If they’re unsure about where to go for help, help them to contact someone a doctor or UON counselling or another local or online resource

4. Follow up

  • Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step and see someone
  • If they deny the problem, don’t criticise. Acknowledge that they’re not ready to talk.

More tips, resources and info is available from the R U OK? website

Remember: a conversation could change a life.

If you need help please contact:

  • University Health Service 4921 6000 (Callaghan) 4348 4060 (Ourimbah)
  • Counselling 0249215801 (Callaghan) 4348 4060 (Ourimbah) 0265816200 (Port)
  • LifeLine 13 11 14
  • Suicide callback service 1300659467

Suicide Prevention

Thursday is R U ok? Day and I will definitely be making a post about how to have a conversation with someone you care about on the day so please come back for that one. Today I thought I would spend a little time talking about suicide awareness and the resources available for you to access help.

Over the past decade approximately 2100 people have died by suicide in Australia each year. Since 1999 we have seen a general decrease in the rates of suicide in Australia, with men still more likely to die by suicide but women more likely to attempt suicide. Not only have deaths by suicide decreased we have also seen a shift in some patterns with the highest risk of suicide in Australia going from young men to older men aged 85 years and above and secondly men aged 40-44 years of age. But sex and age are not the only risk factors for suicide remote and rural areas, people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin and those identified with a mental illness are also at higher risk than the general population ( you can read more about these in the Mindframe resources book)

I had the opportunity in 2005 -2010 to work with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health on the MindFrame suite of projects funded under the National Suicide Prevention Framework. I was fortunate to work with someone who is passionate about the work she does and that of her team about the important role that we can play as one person, a community and a nation in changing our attitude, beliefs and behaviours around mental health and suicide. If you are interested you can watch Jaelea talk about this in the clip below.

Raising awareness in the community and offering help and support of help seeking behaviour is an important factor in suicide prevention. This Thursday is R U ok day. It is an opportunity to start a conversation with someone you are worried about. To raise awareness around suicide, breakdown the myths and stigma associated with getting help when you are struggling. An opportunity to make a change as just one person. It’s never hopeless, one person can make a difference. You can make a difference. Just ask R U ok?

If you need some help in finding support for someone or for yourself then check out the community resources, online services, applications and websites and emergency contact details found on this Blog. You can also use the Skype Drop-In times with the online counsellor to help identify the right service to help a friend, or get some advice about how to ask the question and have a conversation about helping someone you are worried about.

Just ask R U ok?

Central Coast Opportunity

Project Synergy is a new e-mental health ecosystem of care for Australia’s young people, incorporating complimentary Young and Well CRC products, certified apps and web based interventions, running on an underpinning set of sector standards, digital interfaces and integrated technologies. Synergy is coming to the Central Coast and have asked for your help in designing technology solutions that can support young people’s mental health. If you are between 16-25 years and have experienced a mental health issue, why not attend one of our workshops during September to give us your input.  The date and location is yet to be confirmed, but what a great opportunity to be able to influence the production of resources which can help young people in the future.  Register your interest at


Self Control

SelfControl is a free and open-source application for Mac OS X that lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click “Start.” Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites–even if you restart your computer or delete the app.

You can get an equivalent for the PC or Android phone called Self Control for Study. It works on the same principles but doesn’t look as nice as the the Mac OS X version. There have also been a few reviews that mentioned a few bugs in earlier version but that seem to have been rectified in the latest release.

What’s good about them: They both allow you to set your own limits and make it impossible to cheat yourself.

What’s not so good about them: They will not work alone in getting you the grades you want. You will still have to put in the hard work!

Using your memory to get better results

As a student I remember at times I would love the material I was learning and I found it easy to study and then perform in the exams and assessments. But most of the time this wasn’t the case. I remember struggling with many subjects in both assessments and exams. For some of these, especially in the first year of study, after many hours of study I could raise my grade to a pass or credit in the final results. By the end of the 4th year my marks were distinctions and high distinctions. I’d like to believe this was a reflection of hours of devotion to my studies and a greater understanding of the material. But I’m afraid it was just better use of my memory to help me recall information. I’ve included some of my tips below, and a few extra I’ve discovered since that might just help you maximise your chance at better grades this semester.

  1. Go for a walk before an exam to improve your cognitive functioning
  2. When you are studying try teaching the material to someone, or something else (pets, siblings, a camera)
  3. Reward yourself with a small treat at the end of each block within the subject and a bigger reward at the end of a topic.
  4. Create mental associations with the use of mind maps – use different colours to break into topic areas and different lines to show relationships between certain topics.
  5. Draw diagrams to help you recall process, parts of the body, machines etc
  6. Use times new roman font – its the fastest to read
  7. Create Flash cards in different colours to help you review the material
  8. Watch a documentary or TED talk on the topic
  9. Vary your place of study – changing environment helps you improve recall and retention
  10. Use practice exams
  11. Take regular study breaks – after 1.5 hrs no new information is assimilated
  12. Study in a group
  13. Don’t stay up all night the night before an exam, sleep improves the functioning of the brain.
  14. Engage in some mediation or relaxation techniques to help with concentration and reduce stress levels.
  15. Use a Self Control app that helps block your access to social media and websites for a specific period of time. I’ll post more about this app later in the week.

So give them a go and see if you can improve your results this semester!

The material or views expressed on this Blog are those of the author and do not represent those of the University.  Please report any offensive or improper use of this Blog to
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