Louise Goux-Wirth, Vice President of Community and Welfare.
The union has put together this mental health road show, why is doing it in the form of a road show so important?
Last year we signed the time to change pledge which shows our public commitment in terms of working to end mental discrimination, so often as we know, pledges don’t always come to reality. You can sign so many promises, so what we are trying to do is to keep to our promise. Last year we did a one day awareness day for mental health awareness day and the feedback was that one day was not enough when we are talking about a university of 30,000 students.
So this year, we decided to take it one step further and do a road show, and the idea behind the road show is that we are travelling to each campus. We started on Monday, and we finish on Friday. We are picking up the momentum of getting students talking about mental health by challenging the stigma around it and telling them of the support out there, if it is on the Bristol community or UWE Wellbeing services.
It has been really good in terms of the amount of students I have behind it. The amount of volunteers that came forward and wanted to help out and give their time quite freely was really good because this campaign would not have been successful without volunteers to help out. Even if we are only have a few minute conversations with students and telling them what we are doing and why it is so important and asking them what makes them happy. In society today, you get quite bogged down with loads of things and it is quite stressful. Sometimes you forget the simple things. You know, what does make you happy?
So you said last year, one day wasn’t enough, but mental health is a big issue, so is five days going to be enough?
Well, it is definitely better than one day. But obviously, it is a message that we should be carrying with us every day. As a Union, we don’t have the facilities to push it so heavily every day but I think we what we have done is a big step forward. To do it as a whole week and to travel to every campus is the key thing. I wanted to do the road show because I wanted to go to the students rather than the students having to come to us, because people always tend to go to Frenchay for things that the union does. Students have really appreciated the effort behind it and not being scarred to talk about it.
Why is it so important that students get all the information about mental health and challenge the stigmas?
I’ve graduated and I know what it is to be a student. It is quite stressful; it is not just about getting your degree done, starting your first year and then graduating three years later. There is so much stuff that happens whilst you’re a student in the middle of all that. It is about knowing that you are not alone, that there is support out there and knowing where to go for help. The biggest thing is probably that people don’t go. They need to know that there is professional help so they get their advice from the right people. Students need to know they are not alone.
Do you think this will make a difference?
It is impossible to just fix it. It is not a problem and let’s fix it kind of issue. We have had quite a few students talk to us and it is those moments where you realise that what you’re doing is really important, when it reaches those students who that genuinely really value such campaigns. There are 30,000 students at UWE so we are not expecting to reach every single one of them, but even if we reach 500 of them, it is still a big difference. It is also what they will pass onto their friends or housemates and things like that. It is better to do something than nothing.