As a part of the QUT Guild’s Wellness Festival, Glass is getting in touch with some of the professionals visiting QUT. The last week is Student Health and will feature Clinical Psychologist Dr Robi Sonderegger.

 I got in touch with Dr Robi to learn more. 

What is Psychology Café?
For many, the widespread stigma attached to mental health challenges, combined with the thought of sitting in the sterile four-walls of a doctor’s office, is enough to make seeing a psychologist a daunting prospect. However, all that changed with the introduction of the world’s first Psychology Cafe (which was a 3-year pilot project on the Sunshine Coast). Hanging out in trendy café’s with trusted companions to decompress and build relationships has long been a favourite Aussie pastime. That’s why Master practitioners in Clinical Psychology endeavoured to break the traditional psychology mould set out to de-stigmatise mental health services delivery by simply inviting people to come in for a ‘coffee and conversation. The project was hugely popular and has attracted considerable interest from international agencies. 
How has our mental health been collectively affected by the COVID-19 age?
There’s an old saying; ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ In simple terms, when the future becomes uncertain and expectations are dashed, anxiety and despair have a way of taking hold. As a result of the current climate of fear, social restrictions and financial uncertainty, last month lifeline recorded its highest daily number of phone calls in its 58-year history. In Queensland, we’ve unfortunately had 1 Covid-related death in 2021. At the same time, the state has recorded an average of 9 suicides each week (predicted to exceed 500 suicides this year). The full picture is still unclear, but international suicide-rate modelling predicts an increase as high as 145% (British Medical Journal) 
What is the thing students neglect most concerning their general wellbeing?
Balance. The bedrock of mental health and emotional wellbeing are the ABC basic. 1. Eat well. 2. Sleep well. 3. Exercise well. 4. Socialise well. 5. Think well. Students often live in the zone of the extremes. A little balance goes a long way to promoting general well-being.
What steps can students take now to feel a greater sense of esteem?
People who are intentionally grateful (engaging the daily discipline of counting their blessings) and endeavour to make a valuable contribution to the lives of others develop robust self-worth. When a person takes the spotlight off themselves and seeks to; enhance, enrich, or improve the life of someone else, they experience the boomerang effect and end up as a beneficiary as well.
What do people fail to teach students, and what do institutions fail to look for in graduates?

If you want to be a great leader, you first have to learn how to lead yourself. Two of the most critical leadership skills often overlooked in our contemporary day and age are critical thinking and effective communication. Critical thinking has largely been reduced to adhering to popular opinions, approved narratives and societal trends. To be an exceptional leader and problem solve in innovative ways, graduates need to be able to critically appraise data without bias, disruptively think in ways beyond convention, and communicate ideas in compelling ways.

You can find more about Dr Robi on his website. To see Dr Robi at Wellfest.