Interview: The Cambridge students behind the 73-73 Challenge for University Mental Health Awareness Day
They hope to help those struggling recognise: ´That they are very much the majority, not the exception´
As part of their mission to de-stigmatise mental health among students, b&together Cambridge (pronounced ‘band together’) have launched the ’73-73 Challenge’. The Tab interviewed b&together Cambridge’s president Rob MacLennan about their new social media campaign, and how we can all get involved.
B&together Cambridge’s ’73-73 Challenge’ is an initiative to “raise awareness for the 73 percent of students” that have struggled with mental health during these strenuous lockdowns. Rob told The Tab that the challenge involves “spending 73 minutes doing an activity that brings you joy, and posting a picture or clip of it on your Instagram or Facebook story and tagging three friends to do the challenge themselves!”. B&together also suggest “donating £7 to a mental health charity that means something significant to you, if you feel able to”.
Rob suggests: “Going on a walk with a friend, doing some painting, or baking (and eating!) for 73 minutes”, emphasising that unlike last year’s 5-5-5 lockdown challenge “no running has to be involved”. Rob, speaking on behalf of b&together Cambridge, also emphasised “through these small acts of self-care, we hope to raise awareness about the invisible impact of lockdown on all of us-and make a change for the better”.
´The scales, that were barely balanced before, might as well have collapsed´
Highlighting just how significantly students’ mental health has been affected, Rob told The Tab that he “Can’t think of a single person that [he’s] spoken to who hasn’t been struggling through this season of lockdown and isolation”. Rob said this was “hardly a surprise” since students are still being expected to continue “carrying the insane academic burdens of a Cambridge term, but without the time spent with friends, the sport, the partying, the music, and everything else that makes it all just about worthwhile”. He commented that it is as if “The scales, that were barely balanced before, might as well have collapsed”.
Rob also told The Tab it was the fact that “lockdown has simultaneously increased our anxieties and reduced ability to grow meaningful relationships” that also inspired this challenge. He raised the point that mental health is hard to talk about “even with those we are closest to”, highlighting just how important it is for us to raise awareness for and support those who are struggling during this incredibly hard time.
Recognising that it has almost been a full year since the “fateful announcement” that the UK was going into lockdown, the b&together Cambridge team believe that “lockdown fatigue is hitting us harder than ever”. Although most of us are looking forward to returning to Cambridge, Rob highlighted that “we would be kidding ourselves to say that things will be totally fine all of a sudden”. He pointed out that “a year of isolation has caused damage that will take time to heal, and we will need to be kind to ourselves as we re-adjust to the ‘old normal’”.
There’s a ´silent majority of students suffering together´
Rob also said that “freshers who will return to Cambridge, head-on into an exam term, while still feeling like they haven’t been able to build friendships” is prominent on b&together Cambridge’s mind. As well as freshers, b&together Cambridge also recognise “those who have found lockdown triggering more serious mental illness for the first time, or have found themselves face-to-face with past battles”.
Rob also notes how “it’s almost paradoxical that there’s this silent majority of students suffering together, and yet are feeling so alone”, emphasising just how important it is to raise awareness about the true scale of lockdown’s impact on our collective mental wellbeing.
Encouraging people to donate that a charity that is significant to them, b&together have also suggested a wide range of charities that you might like to think about on their website. Rob highlighted the support that their partner charities ´YoungMinds´ and ´BEAT´ provide to young people struggling with mental illnesses, and noted the importance of crisis organisations such as Nightline, Samaritans and SHOUT, as just a few charities you could think about choosing from.
´that they are very much the majority, not the exception´
Rob also highlighted that there are three main benefits that he and b&together Cambridge team anticipate the ´73-73 Challenge´ will bring. Firstly, they hope “raising awareness about how widespread the impact of lockdown on student mental health has been” will help those struggling to realise “that they are very much the majority, not the exception”.
Secondly, they believe that “by intentionally taking time out of our hectic days to look after ourselves, we are actively doing something beneficial for our own wellbeing”, which he hopes will inspire us to place greater importance on our wellbeing in the future.
Thirdly, they also believe that “by raising money for mental health charities together, we are contributing to the vital work that is being done to support those of us who are struggling most”.
Rob also told The Tab how “crazy the last two weeks have been in turning this idea into a reality”, emphasising that they were “excited b&together Cambridge are to be launching the challenge today, on University Mental Health Day, alongside over 40 launch partners in Cambridge”.
Rob also urges everyone to participate in this challenge, and encourages people to get involved, even if you’ve not been tagged, suggesting you start your “own tagging chain”. B&together Cambridge have also created a cool Instagram filter, which can be found on the @bandtogethercambridge Instagram page, as well as 73-73 GIF’s which can be found by searching ‘7373’ or ‘band together’ when posting your story.
Echoing what we are all thinking, Rob also said “if you have been nominated to do it already, what are you waiting for?”. Join b&together Cambridge in raising awareness, and start your own positive journey by participating in the ’73-73 Challenge’ today!
Feature Image Credit: Rob MacLennan