Say G’Day Day
Neil Starkie, GM Strategic Partnerships and Growth
Each Year WA Mental Health Week highlights the important connection between social determinants and mental health. This year the week ran from 7-13 October and it always coincides with World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day, which both fell on 10 October.
Since our beginnings in 1963, St Bart’s has been a leading provider of services for people experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges, helping people to recover from their traumas and their hardships.
From our experience when we speak to people who have experienced living on the streets, people sleeping rough experience feelings of invisibility and worthlessness, largely due to the fact that the people passing by do not acknowledge them. That lack of acknowledgment can be incredibly dehumanising. Some people actively cross the street, some bury their head in their phone, while others avert their gaze in an attempt to avoid eye contact with the person experiencing homelessness.
These actions have a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people living on the street, which is why St Bart’s conceived it’s #SayGday campaign two years ago. We positioned the focal point of the campaign, Say G’Day Day on the Friday before Mental Health Week. The confluence of homelessness and mental health is clear and the compounding impact on someone’s mental health of being made to feel as though they don’t exist, can be severe.
From the stories we hear from the people who have walked through St Bart’s doors, we know that homelessness doesn’t discriminate, it can and does happen to anyone. The very least anyone can do is treat street-present people with the same dignity and respect that we all deserve. When we see someone living on the streets, it is dangerous to take that snapshot of the person’s life and call it the whole story. Freeze framing someone’s life at random moments only feeds judgement, condemnation and despair. We are all more than a series of moments. At St Bart’s we see the whole person, we get to know their story, help them set goals for themselves, see their potential and support them through their recovery journey.
Our aim for the #SayGday campaign is to influence public opinion on what it is to be homeless, and encourage everyone to say a simple “G’day” the next time they walk past someone living on the street. The power of a simple acknowledgement of someone’s existence through a simple greeting can have a significant positive impact on that person’s mental health and wellbeing. It can make them feel human again.