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Mental health protest targets Applicant’s Day

The protest was called off early after a productive meeting with senior university staff.

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Credit: Harry Williamson

Future freshers were met by students protesting the state of mental health services at the University of Stirling’s Applicant Day. 

Protesters gathered at the main entrance to the university and around campus to hand out leaflets to potential applicants, and discuss the issue of the state of mental health services.

The group were moved on from some locations by campus security officers and claimed that posters they had put up previously as part of the protest had been taken down.

The testimonials being distributed by protesters were anonymous from both students and staff about their negative experiences with mental health.

“People are killing themselves because it is so underfunded, and the impact on everyone’s education is crazy, if your mental health is awful, your grades are awful and your whole future suffers.”

Some testimonials highlighted how some students didn’t feel comfortable approaching student support services;

“They have made me feel worthless and repeatedly made it clear they do not care for my physical or mental health and wellbeing.”

The testimonials have also highlighted the experiences of staff members whose mental health is being harmed;

“This same system has led to staff confiding in me that they are too scared to disclose serious medical conditions.

“These are the same staff who routinely overwork, often admitting to working up to 70 hours a week and falling asleep at their keyboard.”

Some people approached the protest praising their actions, whilst others criticised them for “damaging the university’s reputation.”

The protest group were invited to meet with the Head of Student Support Services Jill Stevenson and the Head of Accommodation Services, Joanne McManus, to discuss their protest and the issues that they were aiming to highlight.

The protestors spoke with staff for over an hour, raising student concerns surrounding waiting times and the quality of mental health services.

Throughout the meeting senior members of the protest group showed a willingness to work with student support service to stop myths and mistruths about mental health at Stirling becoming prominent, and to help promote the work of the new mental health and wellbeing strategy.

Both sides described the meeting as productive, as the protest group leaders will now have a chance to be part of the consultation for the university’s new mental health strategy, which is currently being developed and is planned to be taken to university management in autumn.

After this meeting had taken place the decision was made to call off the protest early.

Credit: Harry Williamson

The leader of the protest said: “Today a number of students from a variety of back grounds took part in a protest against the lack of adequate mental health support and funding at the university of Stirling.”

Daniel Deery said that he still had concerns over mental health services despite the meeting.

“During the day we met with representatives from the management and had a constructive discussion however we are still concerned about the attitudes and priorities if the most senior management at this University.”

Abbey McLean, gave a comment on behalf of the whole protest group, outlying why they arranged the protest and the decision to hold it on Applicant’s Day:

“We decided to stage a protest because we are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of support for those who have been affected personally by this issue.

“We also believed that the protest would put pressure on the university and its reputation during applicant day, when it looked to reach out to a new student community.

“We were involved in a constructive meeting today and are now in the process of working with them to create change that works for everyone.”

Credit: Harry Williamson

Sonny Bailey, the new Disability Officer posted about the protest on Facebook:

“This morning I took part on a mental health protest on campus which received positive response from counsellors and people visiting campus today.

“I’m utterly disappointed with upper management and their attitudes towards this massive student wide issue.

“Clearly more dialogue and outreach to the wider student body has to be one of the next actions.

“DSAS will be involved with examining the upcoming Mental Health Strategy Plan alongside other societies to ensure that the student voice is heard.

“Right now our position is clear. Mental health on campus is not being taken seriously and I will be involved with the future discussions surrounding it.”

The University of Stirling released a statement about the protest, stating their commitment to student welfare;

“The wellbeing of our students is an absolute priority for the University and we encourage any students seeking support to access the range of support services available.”

They spoke about how students will be involved with the development and implementation of the new mental health strategy.

“We are developing a new Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy, in partnership with the Students’ Union and a range of partners, and will be working closely to engage students further in this process.

The University described the meeting as “constructive.”

“The protest took place freely and peacefully and posters were displayed in the usual designated student spaces.  Senior colleagues met with a small group of students on the day and held constructive discussions, resulting in the end of the protest and an agreement for ongoing dialogue.”

Staff have already emailed the protest group with plans to discuss the mental health strategy and establish a student’s forum on mental health.

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