We spoke to Conscious Edinburgh to get all the gossip on this year’s ball
Unlimited drinks in a stately home? Sign me up
If you were around Edinburgh last year you definitely either attended or wish you attended Conscious: The Edinburgh Mental Health Charity Ball.
Well, this year on November 16th the ball is back and better than ever, and The Edinburgh Tab has been speaking to the team behind it to bring you all you need to know.
We spoke to fifth-year medics Anusan Wijayendran, one of the Conscious founders, and Shanna Su, this year's Conscious President, to learn more about what Conscious is, what it does and what can be expected from this year's big night.
Hey Shanna and Anusan! Can you tell me a bit about how Conscious all began?
A: Me and my friends from school started Conscious after one of our closest friends in our friendship group took his own life. It came completely out of the blue when we were freshers in 2016. It was extremely sad but what was also terrible was the aspect that not a single one of us knew that he was going through anything at all. All of us would’ve stayed all night talking to him if only we knew. The fact that he didn’t feel safe or confident enough to open up to anyone got to all of us. It felt like something that could’ve been so preventable so we wanted to do something.
In Oxbridge they have their May Balls which are amazing and Pink Week as well, so that’s how the idea of a charity ball came about. We had our first charity ball in 2017 in Oxbridge and that went well. I decided it was something that would work here.
Beyond the ball, what is Conscious? Are there other things you do?
S: Yes! We are a registered charity with the Scottish Charity Regulator. Last year we just had the Conscious Ball where all funds raised were delegated to different mental health charities. This year we applied for charity status because we felt that we wanted to do more for students on campus.
One of the things Conscious is doing this year are mental health first aid courses, these are 12 hour courses that run over two days. Both Anusan and I are first aid qualified and it’s upwards of £200 to train one person, so these courses are quite expensive. But we think it’s really important for at least one member of every Edinburgh University society or club to be trained, just so every society has one point of contact.
A: We also run a two hour program called Conscious Conversations every Sunday. We try to extract what we think is the most salient information from the first aid courses and pass that on to societies. We teach them what to look out for in students, how to start a conversation with them and how to listen non-judgementally, among many other things.
Another thing we're trying to start is handing out little badges, which say "happy to talk". We want to give these out so people who see the badges know that that's someone who is happy to talk and someone you know you can go to. Everyone who participates in Conscious Conversations is offered a badge because they've had the basic training.
How can clubs and societies get involved in Conscious Conversations and mental health first aid training?
S: We email a lot of the big societies and we have a post on our Facebook page with a link to a form where you can register your interest. We’re booked up for every Sunday this semester and so far we’ve had great feedback from our sessions, so we hope to just keep them going.
A: A lot of it is word of mouth too – there’s only so much us spamming our own Facebook can get across.
Onto the Conscious Ball, what is it about the ball that makes it unique from others and what can we expect this year?
A: The ball is basically a festival in black tie – you never sit down in one place, you’re encouraged to move around. We have an open bar with unlimited free drinks and lots of food trucks serving unlimited free food.
There’s loads of entertainment options too – we have a rodeo bull and a bungee run, there’s live bands, DJs and a ceilidh. This year our headline act is Scouting for Girls! There’s something for everyone.
Also, we’re not just another ball in The Caves, The Jam House or the Balmoral. This year we’re having the ball in Arniston House, it’s a stately home 30 minutes out of Edinburgh, which is really special.
Tickets are £80 and that covers everything, including transportation to and from the venue. At a normal ball you end up going and putting quite a lot of money behind the bar because drinks are so expensive. So the Conscious Ball is great value for money for a great cause.
How many tickets did you sell for last year's ball?
S: Last year we sold 1000 tickets and we sold out!
How much money did last year’s ball raise and do you have a goal for this year?
S: Last year we raised £27,000. This year we don’t have a goal as such, we’re not trying to beat last year’s target or anything like that.
What will the money raised from this year's ball go toward?
S: The money raised will be shared between Conscious and some other mental health charities.
Tickets for Conscious: The Edinburgh Mental Health Charity Ball 2019 are still available and can be purchased here.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, you can get access to immediate support by calling Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visiting www.studentminds.org.uk.
If you're a student in Edinburgh and need longer term support, you can access counselling services and advice networks at The University of Edinburgh.