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The Power of Acknowledgement

Neil Starkie, GM Strategic Partnerships and Growth

Close your eyes and picture this – you’re living on the streets and dealing with the harsh realities of homelessness.

Now picture this – everyone that walks past you either averts their gaze, crosses the street or makes an imaginary phone call in an effort to avoid interacting with you or even acknowledging your existence.

How would this make you feel?

I ask this question because, at St Bart’s, we often hear stories of how people who have experienced homelessness have felt invisible and worthless when members of the public actively sought to avoid and ignore them when they were at their lowest and most vulnerable. These actions have a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people living on the street and prompted St Bart’s to launch our inaugural Say G’Day campaign last year.

The premise of our Say G’Day campaign is as simple as it is impactful – that being the positive effect a simple acknowledgment can have on people doing it tough.

Celebrated annually in October in the lead up to World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day on 10 October, Say G’Day encourages members of the public to think about what their initial reaction is when they see a person living on the street and how that reaction may impact their mental health and wellbeing when they are already down.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the rate of mental health issues is substantially higher among people with a history of homelessness (54%) compared to the general population (19%). It is a statistic not surprising to St Bart’s, as we received 327 enquiries for our Mental Health Supported Accommodation in FY2021/22.

Our Say G’Day campaign also seeks to highlight the important message that homelessness doesn’t discriminate. Your age, race, sex and previous status don’t matter when it comes to homelessness. It can happen to anyone, so the least we can do is treat people who are doing it tough with the respect and dignity that we would hope to receive if we found ourselves in the same position.

Saying G’Day doesn’t cost a thing, but it can bring change.
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