#Endweek5blues: Stop claiming you ‘represent’ me

The campaign that just won’t listen

Cambridge campaigns cde daisy hughes endwee King's mental health mental illness safe space Senate House week 5 blues whose university

I’m someone the #endweek5blues campaign are trying to help. But I’m against their campaign.

It’s me again. I wrote a piece the other week about Whose University?.

Now I’m back to say why I am similarly opposed to #endweek5blues (apart from the same superfluous punctuation within the campaign’s name). As previously mentioned, I am in a downward spiral of mental health problems: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, self-harm, etc. So here’s my view.

It’s all too easy

Treatment of, and attitudes towards, mental health problems need changing. But I don’t think this campaign is the best way to make Cambridge more accessible to those with mental health issues. Calling for a reading week is easy. The campaigners are treating the issues at hand symptomatically rather than addressing the real causes. In the long term, the repercussions of this particular bandwagon could be very problematic.

Where’s the evidence that it will help? Yes, lots of people have problems at the moment – myself included. Lots of people would like a reading week – but who wouldn’t want a week off if they were offered it? This is not actual evidence that it will help; it’s proposing a radical overhaul with a huge ‘MAYBE’ blazoned across it.

Personally, since coming to Cambridge, I have found a way to manage quite well: routine. Over the course of the first week each term, I plan ahead and I find a way to work best. I keep going for eight weeks; yes, I get stressed but the stress helps me to keep going. Momentum is essential for me to survive and keep one step ahead of my depression. I work for eight weeks and give it everything, then I go home and do nothing for at least a month.

A reading week – which would undoubtedly involve alot of reading given the amount of my reading list that currently remains unread – would be some of the work with none of the structure: nothing to work towards, no reason to necessarily get out of bed in the morning if I didn’t feel like it.

I need motivation to get me out of bed

It could quickly become a week of chaos, weeks of regression in terms of attitude towards actual work (i.e. essay deadlines) which I’d then have to make up for when it suddenly matters again.

Yes, I might be the odd one out. But the campaign claims to stand for everyone with mental health issues (whether this is the case is another issue, but perceptions are everything with such sensitive issues). They erupt in outcry when anyone generalises such groups in a criticism of their campaign, and yet they themselves do the exact same thing. They generalise about people like me, and it upsets me.

The focus on ‘Week 5 Blues’ is a gross oversimplification. It trivialises mental health issues. I don’t get Week 5 Blues, I get Every Week Blues. To lump all of this under mere ‘blues’ is insulting in itself. Why not work on the underlying issues and support systems rather than a disruptive one-size-fits-all policy?

I don’t have the ‘blues’, I’m mentally ill

Also, on a somewhat more superficial level, I don’t want to pay for another week here. Rent, food, expenses (which would likely involve a lot of alcohol given the absence of work): money I can’t necessarily afford.

My student loan currently covers my accommodation almost perfectly, I’d rather not have that change. And I like having holidays that are long enough to recover fully, then reflect on the term, then prepare for the next term.

What I’m left wondering is: who does #endweek5blues serve? If it serves the people with mental health issues (the group they are claiming to help) who want a reading week, what about the people with mental health issues who thoroughly object to a reading week (i.e. me and others), but who feel so intimidated by the campaign that they are unwilling to put their name to an article or their face to an opinion?

The campaign that doesn’t listen

This is the dilemma that the campaign are going to have to solve. There is no simple answer. Ultimately, there’s a good chance that it’s going to fuck some things up, perhaps even fuck up some people. Is #endweek5blues running before it can walk, before it even knows if it will be the best solution for its problem?

If this goes ahead and my doubts are realised, am I just going to be the collateral damage in a campaign claiming to help people in my situation, which is uncertain of its own effectiveness and doesn’t even deal with the core issues?