While some people have been baking bread, learning a new language, or sewing face masks to get through COVID-19 isolation, Bachelor of Education student Sam Groom has been growing a mullet.
But Sam’s business-in-front-party-in-the-back hairstyle is not just for laughs: it’s a way to start an important conversation.
Sam is sporting the retro ‘do for the Black Dog Institute’s Mullets for Mental Health initiative, which is raising money for research into early detection, prevention and treatment of mental disorders.
His mullet is also the star of a social media video seen by more than 15,000 people and shared hundreds of times. Its success helped him raise more than $2000 for Black Dog during the September fundraiser, four times his original goal.
The 23-year-old fourth year student got together with his personal trainer and some mates to make the video, which urges people to “never skip brain day”, a nod to the workout wisdom “never skip leg day”.
“There’s just such a barrier to talking about mental health. I know for guys, and I’m sure it’s the same for girls, it seems like it’s too awkward or too dark,” Sam says.
“Now every time people see a mullet they’ll think, ‘Maybe it’s not just a stupid haircut, it’s for mental health’ and start some positive conversations around it.”
Sam’s interest in improving mental health among his community was influenced by the mental health first aid training he undertook as a Residential Adviser at the Bathurst campus in 2018 and 2019.
The training was important to help him support students struggling with life away from home.
“Homesickness is a tough one. The thing to do with that is to build an environment that’s homely, making sure everyone has someone to lean on, and always reminding people that family is not far away,” Sam says.
“Depression is also a fairly big one for people my age. I think it probably stems from social media and seeing all these unrealistic things. Our generation hasn’t really been able to live a life without social media.
“It’s about learning how to step away and know that everything you see isn’t that realistic, and expectations aren’t really that high.”
Sam says he would like to help young men speak openly and seek help if they need it.
“The stigma is definitely there in terms of toughness and masculinity, I’m just trying to do my part in breaking that down.
“I’ve played footy my whole life and played for the Uni. In those communities we try to mention mental health and look out for each other; not just be a bunch of guys playing footy, but be mates who are there for each other as well.”
Sam says his passion for improving mental health will endure, along with his mullet. “I just went to the barber to touch it up a bit and make it not look as filthy as it was. A lot of people are making sure it’s staying – I’m getting a lot of positive comments.”