Vikki Ryall: A Critical Friend for the Be Awesome Festival

By Jessica Riddout

Last week I met with Vikki Ryall, Head of Clinical Practice at headspace, the youth mental health foundation, to get her input into building the first Be Awesome Festival Melbourne pilot. I used to work with Vikki when I was at headspace, and always valued her critical thinking and the care she has for every young person that comes through the door at headspace.

Vikki’s advice comes from her wealth of experience as a mental health professional, and also as a mum to two little girls, aged five and eight. We spoke over a coffee in the city for about an hour, and she gave us loads to think about as we develop the festival.

Two pieces of advice in particular stood out for me:

The vital role of parents as part of the Be Awesome Festival

Vikki said “parents will play a huge role in what kids take away from the festival. They should know what their child has taken part in during the day, and how they can support their child to continue to think about and reflect on what they took away”.

As a team, we’ve been thinking about how we can best support parents to continue the Be Awesome buzz after 28 January, and this was a great reminder to add this into our planning over the next few weeks.

We’re working on what this will look like. It might be an outline of the challenges and some prompts that parents can ask their children in the weeks after 28 January. And I’m sure that what children will remember a day after the event will be vastly different to what they remember and reflect on a few weeks later. We can’t wait to see what kids take away from the day, and how they’ll talk about it with their friends and family.

Holly, a mental health researcher from our team is also developing the framework for how we measure the impact of each participant’s experience, not only straight after the festival but also weeks, months and even years later. What we learn from this event will certainly help us make it better for long-term impact.

Our dreams change – and that’s ok!  

Vikki and I spoke about the Be Awesome challenges, and she gave us loads of advice on how to make the challenges even better. One piece of advice that really stood out for me was around our ‘Dream Big’ challenge – designed to prompt our participants to think about their dreams for the future – and how they can hold onto them.

Our dreams change all the time, depending on what’s going on for us – this is true for both kids and adults. For me personally, 2016 has been a massive year of professional and personal change, and what I wanted in January is different to what I want now as we’re heading towards the Christmas holidays.

And this is the same for our young participants, too. What they want when they’re with us on 28 January will probably be different to what they’ll want a month later – and that’s fine!

Vikki’s advice was “I’d frame this as what’s your dream for now – acknowledging that what we want will change, and that’s ok. I’d also talk to the kids about what they’re going to do to hold onto their dream, and how they’ll keep it safe – I think you’ll see some pretty creative ways in which they’ll look after what they want to protect”.

Massive thanks to Vikki, we’re lucky to have her onboard as on one of our critical
friends for Be Awesome.

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