Editor's column

This is a crisis, and we need to talk about it

I’m sitting at my desk in the Media Office and it’s almost midnight. The Concrete team has spent the last few weeks sending out content calls, editing articles, taking photos and laying up this issue. They’ve done a fantastic job, so give the paper a read –  it’s a brilliant issue.

I remember my first day at university. I remember walking into one of my flatmates rooms where everyone was sitting awkwardly on the floor trying to remember each other’s names. I feel it took me a month longer than everyone else to get their names right but I managed it in the end.

I always knew I wanted to get involved in student journalism. If you’re reading this, the chances are you do too. Thankfully it’s not too difficult. Anyone can write for us, draw for us, take photos for us, and if you’re a technical wizard you are like gold dust to us! We have a Big Meet coming up on 27th September. That’s where you sign up to each section’s content calls, so don’t miss it! Until then join our Facebook group, Concrete Members 2019/20.

On the front page you’ll have seen that a number of MPs as well as students and parents are supporting our campaign, the Concrete Mental Health Crisis Campaign. 

Some people don’t like the word ‘crisis’. But that’s what this national problem is: a crisis. It doesn’t mean if you’re feeling low you can’t talk to someone because you’re not at ‘crisis level’. The word applies to the issue of mental health in universities across the UK. Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has varying levels of mental wellbeing. And we’re all in this community together.

Our campaign originates from four tragic deaths. In the space of just 10 months UEA students Jonathan Walker (23), Jess Fairweather (20), Nick Sadler (25), and Theo Brennan-Hulme (21) were found dead. Three were found on university grounds. And it’s important to read their names. I admit I didn’t fully comprehend this until I read through some of our supporters’ thoughts and suggestions. 

One in particular stuck with me: “Can we please stop referring to these people as ‘4 students’. They are not numbers, they were people with deep friendships and families and have left huge holes in the lives left behind. I am sick of my friend being referred to as the 4th student to die. His name was Theo and I miss him every day. Stop being so clinical and cold about suicide.”

We’ve heard the phrase ‘four students’ too often, and it’s becoming a term many are used to at UEA. No one should have to get used to that phrase. 

What we’re hoping to do with this campaign is to get people talking about mental health. We want to discuss it out in the open. We want to debate it. We want to hear people’s ideas, and ask the university to listen.

That’s not to say the university isn’t taking action. They have and they are. Our role as UEA’s official student newspaper is to find the truth, to tell the truth, but most importantly to hold institutions such as the university to account.

Throughout this issue there is a focus on mental health. From Harry Routley’s Comment article to Travel Editor Sam Hewitson’s piece in his section, our team is taking the first steps in this year-long campaign.

We will not ease up. We will not forget the tragedies that have occurred. And we will continue to hold those in power to account.


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Chris Matthews