Meet the fresher who set up a mental health campaign from his Taly room

He suffered with anxiety and depression and now wants to help others

Not many freshers would’ve started up their own mental health campaign seven weeks into starting university in a new city. But George Watkins has, and he’s on a mission to make a difference.

The 20-year-old English Lit first year has created his own campaign, “The Mental Youth”, to help students at Cardiff University suffering from all types of health issues, from anxiety to depression.

As a sufferer of anxiety and depression for the last five years, George is determined to help those at university win the battle. And his first step is dropping the meds.

George told The Tab: “The big message is that you don’t need to go to your doctor to say you’re feeling down because they’ll throw you on anti depressants, which you don’t need.

“A lot of the time, unless it’s a serious condition, you don’t need it. A lot of problems can be resolved from simply talking and taking your mind away from it.

“I was on YikYak yesterday, and the amount of people that put up around 10/11 at night stuff like ‘feeling really alone, anxious, depressed…they’re the people I want to come in on.”

That’s what The Mental Youth is all about, creating a space for people to come together and talk things through, without depending on anti-depressants, which George claims “felt like someone had my head in a vice the entire time.”

He used to take 10mg of Prozac anti-depressants then 80mg of beta blockes, which are used to slow your heart rate down to help with anxiety, which George said “makes everything feel like you’re in slow motion”, George feels clearer, brighter and able to engage with his surroundings.

Although The Mental Youth is in it’s early stages, the Taly Court resident has big ambitions for his project.

George said: “I want to get a team together and get the campaign going. We’re looking for volunteers who ideally but not exclusively have a mental health past, but it’s always good to have testimonials of people who have come through a tough time as people can relate, especially with coming to university and residences for the first time.

“We aren’t trained councilors, we aren’t therapists, we don’t have PHDs, but we are going to spread far and wide with two main branches: online with social media, to be frank, honest and informative without feeling like we are lecturing.”

“Then there will be the physical side, there can be coffee mornings, and big meet ups.”

Although George appreciates the current university Nightline number that provides help services, he wants to do something on a more personal level.

George has begun promoting his campaign round campus with flyers

He said: “I want to set something up that’s by students for students.”

“If you’re having a shit day, there will be nothing to stop someone getting in touch with one of the team and meeting up for a coffee to talk it out.

“It’s not a buddy system, but a network and support community.”

This is a word that clearly resonates with George – community. He wants to remove the stigma of mental health at university and get people comfortable and talking about it to one another.

George said: “I want the campaign to be something that’s regular across campus and you can go ‘actually it’s okay what I’m dealing with’.”

The Mental Youth is there to help everyone on campus, but George thinks its freshers who are in particular need of help when they first start university. Although work pressure is a factor in the development of anxiety and depression, George doesn’t think this is the main reason for such a high development of mental illnesses in university.

The Taly Court fresher has big plans to help the rest of the campus

George said: “I think it’s the social pressures. Being an outsider for so long, I couldn’t really drink because of all the medication I was on which made me practically go paralytic.

“It has given me a perspective that a lot of people are going into situations that they really don’t feel comfortable with, like going out to the SU Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and spending ridiculous amount of money, and then coming back and feeling worse about themselves.

“With all the social media its hard not to get that fear of missing out, you feel like everything is happening and you’re not there.

“But the combination of keeping up with deadlines, the feeling you need to go out a lot, money worries, it can all lead you in a bad place and it does have a way of getting worse and worse.”

Although he has progressed since then, and is confident and enjoying university, George was still petrified to come. He said: “I was terrified to come to uni, I’m from a tiny town in the middle of Dorset where my daily routine was all on one street for working, living and shopping.”

“Coming here it’s a massive change. I’d heard someone describe Cardiff as a town dressed as a city, and I love it.”

It’s certainly impressive to see that seven weeks into university life, George is already trying to make a difference to the well being of the entire campus. From simply starting conversations on mental health and fighting preconceived stigmas, to the hope of creating a community for those in need, I think we can all take a leaf out of this inspirational fresher’s book in making our campus a better and more accepting place.

If you want to get involved with The Mental Youth, check out their website here, find them on Facebook here, or send them an email at