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“When you’re feeling vulnerable, you want support quickly”: The petition for better mental health facilities on campus

The Tab speaks with the student who organised the petition

An online petition has been spreading like wildfire amongst students at UEA, gaining over 4100 signatures since it was started yesterday. Targeted at David Richardson, UEA's Vice Chancellor, it is titled, "Directly Address the Mental Health Crisis at UEA". The Tab spoke to Adam Harvey who, along with a few others, started the petition.

When asked why they started the petition, Adam Harvey told The Tab it was driven by the need for "action to be taken on the crisis on campus we're experiencing with mental health."

He continued: "We've had numerous deaths on campus, and there is not enough being done about it by the higher-ups at UEA. This petition wasn't planned; it was a very organic movement simply started by a few of us deciding to take matters into our own hands.

"There is not enough resources or awareness at UEA to deal with the mental health crisis we are experiencing; for example, waiting times can be over a month for someone that needs help. When you're feeling vulnerable, you want support quickly, and this just makes students feel unsupported by their university."

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There will be a sit-in tomorrow in The Square

Harvey mentions what they hope the petition will achieve, saying: "Ideally, we'd want more resources available for students who need help. The amount of counsellors is too low currently, so additional staff in that regard would be a great help. On top of that, something to create more awareness would be crucial: many students aren't aware of how mental health issues can manifest in themselves or their friends, and things like "awareness lectures" where someone comes in to talk to students about the issue could be a great help."

However, he notes that this is also an opportunity for the UEA community to start having increased conversations about mental health, telling The Tab: "Beyond resources, we're hoping this petition will help students open up about mental health, and feel supported by their fellow students. If we can make students comfortable, and speak about these topics then it creates a better environment within the community.

"The support we've received has been has been amazing. We received almost 4000 signatures in under 24 hours, and it's not just students from UEA. People from across the country are showing their support, and we've had a lot of parents say how important it is to them knowing their child is at university, too. I definitely think it's something that's connected with a lot of people, and it's uplifting to know that people care."

When asked about the next steps after the petition, he said: "It's in its early days right now, but we already have a sit-in protest planned soon to also raise awareness. I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing group of like-minded individuals with this campaign so far, and I'm hopeful for where it will take us next."

Harvey emphasises the importance of looking out for one another, stating: "Students shouldn't be afraid to open up about mental health; and if a friend or family member seems distant, closed off or isn't acting their normal selves, to check up on them. Mental health issues are more common than a lot of people believe, and active support from friends and family can go a really long way."

If you are interested in supporting this cause, you can sign the petition here.

Norwich Nightline is available between 8pm to 8am every term time night on 01603 597158. The Samaritans helpline can be contacted on 116 123. The UEA Student Support Services can be contacted on 01603 592761 and [email protected]

Photo credit: Anjelina Encheva