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World Mental Health Day and UEA: how to get involved with raising awareness on campus

It was on my third lap around the manically packed societies fair that I stumbled across an untapped, wellspring of passion. Headucate is a society at UEA (and elsewhere) that I just did not know about. I am so glad it exists.
In their words: “[Headucate is a] mental health student organisation set up in 2012 based at the UEA. Our main aim is to raise awareness of mental health in schools by running small workshops with children and teenagers to tackle misconceptions about mental health issues and to tackle associated stigma”.

In my own words: well, to me, one of the side effects I suppose you could say of the heightened consciousness I feel at university is that actions seem to have a great, weighty consequence. I have a new gravity. I can see (in an analogy beautifully described by my flatmate, Cicely) the tiny threads each decision makes, spilling out from a large loom of time. For instance, if I hadn’t been re-roomed I wouldn’t have had the same experience I am having now. I would be running along a different thread. Further back: if I hadn’t decided to take a year out to contemplate further which university I was to go to I wouldn’t have ended up here at all, even studying my course. Further still, if, when I suffered a serious bout of depression in my early teenage years, if I’d made different decisions – I might not be here at all.

I had little intervention or education about mental health before I fell into its grasp. It’s as debilitating and all consuming as any physical illness I have felt or can imagine, and, as there are one in four sufferers, I know that there’s an often-quiet quarter with recognition of this fact. In light of recent and formative events I’ve been constantly extending out an offer amongst my friends and further to speak candidly about mental health. Specifically mental health at university, which is such a key issue.

When I was more clued up and had the will to grasp the small glimmers of light, I found, fortunately, that I could clear my mind with exercise and healthy lifestyle. Now, although I am often overshadowed – I am filled with a furore for making this a very public and pressing issue. If I could myself be a glimmer, or, as I aspire always for more now – a beacon – to reach higher and higher, perhaps I can spiral a loom away from the dark and up in the stars.

I am filled with passion and firstly I set out to inspire my flatmates. I have recruited two of them. Cicely, whose metaphor I took on loan, accompanied me on a gorgeous 10th October – the day the world over people spread awareness on mental health. UEA put on a series of open lectures consisting of leading experts on a wide spectrum: dementia, mindfulness, eating disorders and Postpartum Psychosis (which I still need to educate myself on).

We then met the kind and caring people of Operation UEA in the students’ union, who obviously supplied free pens, treats and hand-outs (standard). They also encouraged you to leave a positive message on a post-it note. This has a history behind it at UEA, which made some news outlets: a particularly lovely student had the inspiration enough to do this on her own will around campus. It makes me think of all the random acts of kindness that accumulate day to day and to some whom sadly these cannot penetrate.

It also seems an appropriate time to share a Facebook post I made regarding my flatmates.
Obviously, playing around with an old uni horror-story that the passive aggressive post-it notes will become the bane of your life. Well, be different – as our flat is – “Be the kindest, most positive person you know for its own reward”, to paraphrase something else I also saw flying around social media on the 10th.
My flatmate Carl for instance, who wished us a Happy Monday, is a Vietnamese exchange student (a fantastic feature of diversity mentioned in previous posts; a Buddhist, a vegetarian – an absolute legend who’s teaching me so much) has, entirely independently, taken on the job of leaving little posts of good advice for each of us. Its these positive vibes that make our flat and university such a gorgeous place to reside.

UEA and Norwich are very mindful places – extremely friendly and safe. Yet people still endeavour to make it better for each individual. The astonishing amount of informal and formal drop-in help services on offer, dedicated to each and every person’s wellbeing, is astonishing and incredibly re-assuring.
Headucate could possibly be the most rewarding opportunity extended out to me and I am so incredibly excited to start my training with the society and meet more like-minded people at their sophisticated socials.

28/10/2014

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joeplatt