Wednesday 4 March 2020

Turning Narratives into a Movement – The Leaders Movement

Danny shares why the Leader's Movement is important to him and how collective narratives can create change.
- Danny Bowman

I have experienced the best of educational establishments when it comes to dealing with student mental health and the worst. As a young person that has experienced poor mental health most of my teenage and adult-life, I know the barriers that can be faced when trying to succeed in the education system.

Even prior to attending university as a mature student, I had witnessed how educational establishments can let young people down. I felt let down when I couldn’t continue my schooling because of my poor mental health, dropping out at the age of 16 without any qualifications.

After a long period of getting back on my feet, I would attend university at the age of 23. I was much better at this point, but after working so hard to get my qualifications back and enter university the pressure was on. The pressures of a new environment, new people, new workload and being away from everything I knew played into my mental illness.

I remember having constant fears of failure, of falling behind and letting people down which continued throughout my first term. In a new environment it was hard to know where to turn on campus and who to speak to when experiencing these symptoms.

I didn’t want to seem weak, or like I wasn’t coping, so I continued throughout this period eventually making some good friends who supported me. I also fell back on some of the coping mechanisms I had learned in the past to deal with my symptoms.

Now in 3rd year and about to graduate, I still wish there had been something else back then, something that was concrete and would have saved me from so much suffering in silence.

That’s why the Leaders Movement is so important to me, it doesn’t just pay lip service to change, but rather delivers a powerful student-led initiative.

Why Student-Led Action is Important? 

Too often, the decisions about student’s mental health and wellbeing have fallen into the hands of non-students, people who haven’t experienced what it is like on the ground. They make proposals and implement policies on student mental health without having the knowledge needed to make informed decisions on the matter.

A comprehensive set of narratives of students from across the country are better suited to deliver informed and sustainable change in student mental health. If we are to truly change the face of student mental health the solutions must come from these common narratives, not from distant university policy-wonks.

Why we Need to Lead the Change in Student Mental Health?

We know that student mental health is on the brink, the figures, media coverage and personal narratives of students all show that something needs to be done to improve the current situation. When we are seeing students suffering in silence, dropping out of university and some sadly loosing their lives, we know something desperately needs to be done.

When discussing the crisis in student mental health with others they always agree that things need to improve, but question their role in it and why it should matter to them?

The reality is that student mental health matters to us all, both on campus and off campus. If university staff want an engaged and hardworking student population, then student mental health must be a priority and at the centre of all university’s decision making. If employers want a well-equipped, healthy and driven workforce, then student mental health needs to improve on-campus to prepare students for life off-campus. If society wants a resilient generation coming through, guess what? Improving student mental health must be at the centre of achieving this. It matters to all of us!!

Turning Narratives into a Grassroots Movement for Better Student Mental Health!

There is a comprehensive array of narratives out there of students who have faced a range of different mental health problems. These narratives are filled with knowledge and experiences that connect students from across the country.

The Leaders Movement is bringing these narratives together enabling grassroots change that is informed by and delivered by students, for the better mental health of all students. This innovative and powerful movement aims to change the face of student mental health forever by brainstorming, campaigning, organising, and fundraising in our local areas. By bringing students together, we will deliver the changes that are needed to make sure that the good mental health of all students is secured.

The message is clear, we are the Leaders Movement, and together as one movement we are going to change the face of student mental health forever. 

Find out more about the Leaders Movement and donate to power student led change today! 

Hi, I'm Danny and I am a Leaders Movement committee member and a student at the University of York. I am Head of Campaigns (Former Director of Mental Health) at Parliament Street, Vice-Chair (Trustee) at MaleVoicED and Fellow at The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. I speak internationally about my experience of mental health problems and has appeared on ITV's This Morning, Fox News and ABC to name a few.

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