Be Brave, Be You!

GigSoc reaches thousands with new Mental Health campaign.

In a society full of unrealistic expectations, social norms and goals, being yourself requires courage and bravery. As part of mental Health Week earlier this month, Gay in Galway Society made the words ‘Be You’ come alive in their recent video campaign ‘Be Brave, Be You’.

The ‘Be Brave, Be You’ video worked to promote acceptance and equality as students came together in an act of solidarity to embrace all differences and encourage students to be themselves.

Numerous members of NUI Galway Students’ Union, the Socs Box, Flirt FM and society auditors from around the campus participated in the video as they reflected on how their involvement with extracurricular activities and societies has had a profoundly positive impact on their life.

Societies Chairperson Patrick O’Flaherty emphasised the involvement in societies as “an important part of building your mental health”, and the overall message of the video was to get involved in something that interests you and allows you to be you.

“On a personal level [societies] are probably what gave me the most meaning to my life, and where I’ve met most of my friends and developed real life skills,” said Áine Gallagher, a representative of ALIVE who, along with Student Volunteer Coordinator Lorraine Tansey, emphasised how involvement with extracurricular activities, including volunteering, can help boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Unfortunately, suicide rates have hit an all-time high in the country, with Ireland holding the fourth highest rate for suicides in young men aged 15 to 24.

While depression is a very common condition which affects more than 450,000 people in Ireland and one in 10 people of all age groups, many people still feel alone when battling this condition.

GiGSoc’s ‘Be Brave, Be You’ campaign is aimed at giving strength to those people who feel marginalised or oppressed and to help people find, in the words of Societies Officer Riona Hughes, “the small changes you can make to raise your mood and make some days possible”.

Riona goes on to add that the message behind the campaign is “a message that is central to what society is all about – finding out who you are and who you want to be”.

The campaign promotes good well-being by encouraging acceptance of yourself and of others and also promotes involvement in societies and extracurricular activities as tools to combat mental health issues, to surround yourself with a network of positive, like-minded people in a situation where you are enjoying your hobbies and practising your skills.

GiGsoc, which is the LGBTQA society in NUI Galway drew its inspiration from the well-known ‘Before I Die’ wall on Dominick street where many have positively reflected on their wishes by ending the sentence ‘Before I Die I want to…’ with their hopes and dreams, including ‘Before I Die I want to be alive’, ‘I want to understand myself’ and ‘I want to make my dreams come true.’

As part of the ‘Be Brave, Be You’ campaign GigSoc held a blank whiteboard where students and staff alike around campus filled out the sentence ‘Be Brave, Be…’ with words of encouragement and positivity.

The whiteboards were filled with optimism and enthusiasm with responses such as ‘Be brave, be true to yourself’, ‘Be brave, be unique’ and ‘Be brave, be the person you want to be!’

“‘Be Brave, Be You’ endeavours to develop a safe and, most importantly, brave campus for the LGBTQA* community in NUI Galway which consists of both students and staff,” said auditor of GiGSoc Jessica Watts.

“We definitely achieved our aim of getting as many people involved as possible and in doing so, promoting acceptance to the best of our ability. GiGSoc, as a society, is always trying to promote acceptance and strives to create a safe and brave space where people can feel free to be themselves, flaws and all.

“Hopefully we can continue to improve the campaign later in the year and we will see the introduction of the permanent ‘Be Brave, Be You’ wall on campus, so that students can help each other by anonymously helping to restore perspective and share intimately their own personal reflections or aspirations in a public space. If we accomplish this goal, then we would consider the campaign fulfilled.”

As GiGSoc has won the award for Best Society for the past two years, they hope to continue this achievement in the coming year. With over 112 societies on campus hopefully this campaign has let students know that there is a place for everyone to grow fully into the individuals that they deserve to be.

“Our campaign was warmly received by everyone that we approached to ask if they would like to be involved. The video has reached just shy of 4,500 people and we are so grateful for and humbled by everyone’s kind words and involvement.

“The committee are extremely proud of the success of the campaign so far and are excited to see how much more it can and will grow over the next few months,” Miss Watts added.

In a world full of angst and uncertainty, GiGSoc’s campaign gives us all the courage to embrace our own differences and the differences of others, cherish the little things and the courage to, above all, be brave and be you!

By Laura McGettigan

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