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Fairfield Mental Health Expo back after COVID

By Fiona West | October 21, 2022
Lecturer referring to projected image with text.

The Fairfield Mental Health Expo is back at Navitas Skilled Futures this year, on Wednesday October 26, as part of National Mental Health month.

The day is aimed at helping migrants and refugees whose wellbeing suffered during the pandemic and hard lockdowns in Western Sydney, as well as those who have recently arrived in Australia from war zones and repressive regimes.

Themed “Share the Journey”, this is the first time the Fairfield Mental Health Expo has run since the inaugural event in 2019, due to COVID.

Navitas Skilled Futures Academic Team Leader Chen Zhao said organisations participating with sessions, stalls or just attending included:

•          UNSW Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program (RTRP),

•          STARTTS (Service for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors),

•          South West Sydney Local Health District,

•          Refugee Health Service,

•          Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network,

•          Settlement Services International (SSI), and

•          Australian Red Cross.

“The majority of our clients at Navitas Skilled Futures Fairfield come to Australia on refugee visas, so most of them have had some pre-migration difficulties or have suffered from trauma. And some of them have either diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues,” Chen said.

 “The Mental Health Expo is a reflection of the trauma-informed practices that we have at the Navitas Skilled Futures; we do have training for teachers and different talks for students as well as our PGAs (pathway guidance advisors) who the students can talk to. But the expo is really something that is quite unique in the community.”

“Three years ago it was the first mental health expo in the area and it was mostly responding to the Syrian influx in 2017, 2018 when we had a lot of refugees from Syria. But in 2022 a lot of those people have settled in and are doing Citizenship classes, but people from Afghanistan are probably now our second largest group in Fairfield (after Iraq), so this expo will be new for them, and hopefully helpful for them.”

Following the 5 Ways to Wellbeing framework, the expo offers participants a range of activities to choose from, under the five categories: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Be Aware, and Help Others. People can:

  • CONNECT with external providers on stalls set up to provide information and referrals to mental health and welfare services in the area.
  • BE ACTIVE with Zumba classes.
  • KEEP LEARNING through information sessions about mental health and dispelling myths and stigmas, as well as arts and crafts sessions.
  • TAKE NOTICE of mental health through awareness and stress management strategies, such as meditation.
  • HELP OTHERS by volunteering time, led by NSF Pathways to Work beauty course students doing free henna art and eyebrow shaping sessions, which can also contribute to wellbeing.

“In 2019 we had very positive feedback from students and stakeholders, because unlike other expos, it’s not just about information, it’s about engagement,” Chen said.

“Especially now that we can all come together again, I think it is good for people to do something positive for Mental Health Month that recognises and benefits their mental health and wellbeing.”

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