It is smiles all round at the University of Wollongong this week, with an Australian-first initiative raising funds for mental health.
Students from the International House dormitory have assembled a hanging Smile Garden, stringing up pictures of happy, smiling UOW students and staff in trees along one of the university’s main walkways.
Jodie Lawer, assistant student residence manager, said the project was to raise awareness of depression during National Mental Health Week, October 7-14.
‘‘There’s a science behind smiling. It releases endorphins, and humans have an instinct for mimicry, so if I smile then you smile,’’ she said.
‘‘We wanted to promote well-being, because so many people are affected by mental illness.’’
The initiative, funded by Projects 4 Peace, has popped up in groves of trees lining the walkway to the McKinnon Lawn. Almost 150 people, including surfers Mark Occhilupo and Michael Lowe, gave cash donations to have their smiling faces tied to the trees, with the project already raising around $2000 for Headspace.
‘‘Part of International House’s mission is preparing students for life after university, and mental well-being is a big part of that,’’ said International House student leader James Walsh.
‘‘Well-being is very important, to make sure people have a great experience at university and after.’’
UOW will further mark National Mental Health Week with yoga sessions and a pancake breakfast on the main lawn tomorrow from 10am.
‘‘The idea is about passing on positivity,’’ Ms Lawer said.