Many of you will have seen the email from UEA regarding their new alliance with The Student Room to produce an app that offers ‘tailored support you need for study, life and wellbeing’. Enlitened asks you twenty questions a week and from that, directs you to articles that will supply advice; you can also make suggestions to the university on how they can improve and vote on other people’s ideas if you agree.
The cynic in me was sceptical from the beginning, but for the sake of fairness I downloaded the app and waited for their confirmation email. It didn’t take long for the problems to begin; the questions I was being asked were far too vague and I’m still trying to work out what one of them actually meant. Also, I feel really motivated to help incite change with the randomly generated username of VigorousSnail. What the app and its creators don’t seem to understand is that, funnily enough, human emotions and needs cannot be summed up in twenty questions with answers on a spectrum from strongly disagree to strongly agree.
On a quick scroll through the app as I write this, the list of trending ideas ranges from cheaper sports facilities, to free pints, to an app for the SU. You will note the lack of anything to do with real wellbeing support here. In fact, the first mention of mental health ideas comes up as suggestion number 48 and doesn’t say anything that we didn’t already know: support services on campus have to be better funded and easier to access.
The problem is that the app is unregulated and just because you get lots of fellow students supporting your idea, does not necessarily mean the university actually has to act on what you have suggested. It’s a great way to make students feel like they are making a difference whilst actually doing very little to help those who really need it.
I guess the real reason for my animosity towards the app is the fact that I am tired of being patronised about my mental health and wellbeing. Rather than have a serious dialogue about what needs to change, we are offered an easier alternative that requires less effort. From the time my depression was misdiagnosed as a Vitamin-D deficiency by my GP when I was 16, to the Student Support Services never getting back to me after the counsellor I was seeing left abruptly, I, like so many others, am tired of being fobbed off with cheap ‘quick fixes’ and hollow words regarding mental health.
Whilst Enlitened is great for making recommendations, such as cleaning the bean bags in the nap nook (which I strongly support), it is not going to be the saviour of health and wellbeing for UEA. We need to be having a serious conversation about these topics and no amount of dog walking or free croissants (available once you’ve answered fifty questions) will ever change that. Stop hiding behind an app and start talking to your students.
Alternatively you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 24-hours a day or email firstname.lastname@example.org