EUSA launches new £10,000 mental health and wellbeing fund

Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) launched a £10,000 Wellbeing Fund last week as part of a broader effort to explore initiatives for mental health and wellbeing.

The fund allows individual students or groups to apply on the EUSA website and complete for funding for mental wellbeing projects on campus.  Its launch last Wednesday is the culmination of a joint effort between the students association and the University of Edinburgh.

In order for a project to be eligible, it would need to “tackle the stigma around mental health, support students with experience of mental illness, or promote the mental wellbeing of students on campus”, according to criteria set out on the EUSA website.

Individual project funds are capped at £500, according to the website, but higher amounts may be provided “where this expenditure is justified”.

The launch of the fund marks the achievement of a major manifesto point for EUSA President Jonny Ross-Tatam, who ran for his position under the slogan “wellbeing is everything”.  £5,000 of the fund money came directly out of Ross-Tatam’s £22,000 salary as president, with the other half matched by the University under an agreement.

Speaking to The Student, Ross-Tatam said: “I’m really excited to see the ideas and projects that students come forward [with].

“Hopefully there will be a lot of competition.”

Ross-Tatam told The Student that EUSA had received “quite a number of applications already”.

Applications are taken in on a rolling basis and decided every few weeks by EUSA staff, a representative from the student counselling service, and the EUSA president himself, Ross-Tatam said.

Asked about the process of securing the University funds, he said: “It was actually very easy, because it’s a big issue for the University, particularly with numbers of students going to the Counselling Service increasing by 40 per cent in the last five years.  So the idea that there’s more for students to do to support each other really struck a chord with them.

“The idea was, let’s start with £10,000 and see what kind of projects and impact we can have.  And if it’s successful […] then it’s likely that it will be increased the year after that.”

The fund is one of several ways the students association has sought to address wellbeing issues.

Last Wednesday, EUSA held “Big Brainstorm #1”, a workshop co-launched with the Buchanan Institute to develop student ideas toward University and EUSA mental health initiatives.

The event, attended by The Student, attracted about forty attendees.  Participants were split into groups around tables and given prompts for discussion, such as “What mental health services should exist at university?” and “How can students support each other at university?”.

Lively conversations ensued over the course of an hour, informed by the personal experiences and opinions of participants.  Many expressed concerns at the social stigmas present around mental health issues.

“There’s a disconnect between communicating how you’re genuinely feeling, and being received and engaged in social situations”, one participant said.

“People automatically think it’s something serious if you have to go to a shrink”, another added.

The discussion prompted numerous ideas for initiatives.  Among the suggestions were student-to-student peer support,  formal training sessions for committee members, and open access days from the Student Counselling Service.

Student attendees reacted positively to the event.

“There were many new ideas – new things came to mind”, Emile Guignard-Rogers told The Student.

“And I really liked talking to different people who’d experienced different things: some that clearly have actually had mental issues, so you could talk to them about their opinions, people in different years, different backgrounds.”

“I think the responses were pretty amazing,” Priyanka Radhakrishnan told The Student.

“We got a lot of new ideas which the University can actually put in place.”

The EUSA wellbeing fund is available for societies, sports clubs and other student groups to apply to at http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/about/fundingfromeusa/mhwf/

Image: EUSA: The Big Brainstorm #1, a workshop to develop mental health initiatives 

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