2nd year Bachelor of Nursing/Paramedicine student, ACU Ballarat Campus
Verity Watt is only in her second year of study at ACU but already an active leader advocating for youth issues—and against the stigma of mental illness.
…to have someone else support you like that is a pretty good felling. It’s like someone else is investing in your future.
The Bachelor of Nursing/Paramedicine student, who grew up in the tiny town of Dixie, Victoria, has always been a big picture thinker. Drawn to the caring professions for as long as she can remember, it was in Year 12 at Mercy Regional College that Verity also discovered a passion for social justice and equity. As the school’s Social Justice Captain, she championed numerous causes, from raising funds for Mercy Beyond Borders to selling scarves in support of women and families in Peru.
Her biggest project, however, was initiating “Open Minds”—a youth-led music event in Port Campbell aimed at removing the stigma surrounding mental health.
“It was designed to promote the importance of staying mentally heathy and seeking help,” Verity says. “It highlighted that it’s okay to talk about your mental health, and emphasised that dealing with mental health challenges should not be a source of shame.”
When Verity heard ACU Ballarat Campus representatives speak at her school, she immediately knew that was where she wanted to study.
“I was straight away drawn to the values and vibe of the campus. After that, I knew there was only one place I wanted to go,” she says.
However, as a first year university student, Verity personally came up against one of the biggest mental health challenges typically facing young people today—being away from home for the first time with the significant financial burden of fulltime study and future debt.
“First year uni involved a huge change to my life,” she says, “One that at times was a difficult adjustment. Moving away from my family, friends and support network definitely took a toll on my mental wellbeing.”
Being awarded the Sisters of Mercy Scholarship, worth $4000, made a major difference.
“It alleviated a lot of potential financial stress and gave me a safety net,” she says. “It also represented the great support you have in a small close-knit community—to have someone else support you like that is a pretty good feeling. It’s like someone else is investing in your future.”
For Verity, who also supports herself by milking cows on the weekend and working as an ambulance community officer, scholarship support also means she has the freedom to get even more involved in youth advocacy. She is currently the Youth Mayor for the Corangamite Shire Youth Council—organising regular events and running an annual youth awards program—as well as a member of the Ballarat Headspace Youth Reference Group, providing a youth sounding board to change attitudes surrounding mental health.
Verity says acceptance around mental health issues is a big part of her family’s values, and wherever her nursing and paramedical degrees take her in future, this will continue to be part of her personal motivation.
“I have never understood the stigma around mental health. I just really want to help alleviate that.”