Friday 31 July 2015

Towards Mental Health and Well-Being

One of the more extraordinary assemblies was held at the College last week that profiled the cause of mental health and depression. Taking an enormous leap of courage and faith, School Captain – Xavier Eales, spoke of his personal battle with depression during his adolescent years and his need to seek professional help to deal with it. Surrounded by a loving family and friends, Xavier has come through a very difficult time with resolve, resilience, and with exceptional courage. Xavier encouraged the boys to be mindful of their own mental health and well-being, by not living in denial but instead seeking the necessary assistance where and when they needed it. And, he exhorted the boys to keep a watchful eye on their friends, to be interventionist if necessary when someone is down and troubled especially if they are not seeking help themselves. Rarely is there a spontaneous standing ovation in the Ramsay Hall, but such was the impact of Xavier’s address to the student body, along with his desire to ensure the psychological health of each and every boy in the school. As a sign of solidarity and diversity, each boy concluded the assembly by donning a favourite shirt, the rich striation of colour producing a tangible sign of the diversity and the solidarity in the school community. House Mentors are following up further as part of a program to raise the importance of mental health and responses to this important aspect of care in the College.

A highlight of every year is the Chapel Concert and 2015 was no exception. Under the atmospheric lighting of the Dalton Chapel, musical magic took place last Thursday evening, from the dulcet combination of strings and wind to the vibrant percussion of drums and keyboards. There is a very rich talent pool at the College and this was on abundant display in the various ensembles, choirs, solo performance and quartets that brought to life different genres of music under the direction of the music staff. While the boys, a number of whom faced their HSC Trial Music Examination during the week, are to be commended on the quality of their musicianship and stagecraft, special thanks are extended to Ms Sue Thomas and the music staff for their generous assistance and support.

To add to the calibre of the music program, the HSC Music Concert was held in the Ramsay Hall during the week and showcased the musical skill of the boys who have studied musical theory and performance throughout the year. Across a range of instruments and drawing upon a high level of proficiency the boys responded magnificently on the public stage with enormous poise and maturity, much to the appreciation and delight of the audience. As the latter stages of the Year 12 calendar come into view it is abundantly apparent that the dedication and persistence of students throughout the year in the performing arts is being rewarded.

As we move towards the middle of the term, many of the Year 12 works are on display in response to assessment and moderation schedules. Last Friday evening the quality of Year 12 Art was revealed, much to the acclaim of Dr Kerry Thomas, who officiated as the visiting artist to launch the Exhibition. Dr Thomas is an internationally renowned artist and author whose work across the educational landscape of Australia is widely known and regarded. She praised the boys’ work, drawing attention to the ‘staggering range of ideas ‘ that addressed ‘the big themes of art for the way that they captured strength and technical skill’. Dr Thomas also commended the boys for their ‘innovation and intellectual rigour’, which was apparent not only in the artistic works on display but also implicit to the theoretical development of each product. This is high praise indeed; those who had the fortune to view the Exhibition are aware that these comments are well justified. Congratulations young men, and many thanks to the passionate and committed staff in the Art Department who facilitated such fine work.

House masses continue with the families of Southwell and Owen joining in memorable liturgies in the Dalton Chapel to complete the program. Indeed, it is a reminder that we are reaching the very latter stages of the year as only six days of classes remain until the boys in Year 12 confront their Trial HSC Examinations. As a community, we keep them in our prayers as they move into the most intense assessments of their lives over the coming months.

Out of the sightline the OIU gathered in the city on Thursday for a Just Leadership breakfast. These functions attract guest speakers who have lived controversial, inspirational and sometimes unorthodox but always interesting lives. Riverview Old Boy Michael Coutts-Trotter (OR 81) is all of those, having experienced prison life for drug related offences as a young man to holding senior government responsibilities in Education and Family and Community Services. Michael reflected on the extraordinary opportunities that confronted him as graduate of the College before making decisions that saw him incarcerated in six different prisons over four and a half years. His rehabilitation and commitment to excellence is a triumph of courage and determination, one that now sees him married with three children and very much committed to the plight of the marginalised and the disaffected in society. It was both an honour and a privilege to listen to Michael’s reflections on life and what that means for him into the future.

As this edition goes to print the boys will be actively involved in service activities in the aftermath of mass earlier in the day to commemorate St Ignatius’ Day. I will report in greater detail on this in the Viewpoint next week.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine