Last week Reading University, along with many other universities around the country, marked University Mental Health Day. Here at Reading, we welcomed three VIP guests to our Whiteknights campus. Our 3 guests were very different from the normal ‘academic’ visitors but their individual contributions to student life are every bit as important as any visiting academic.
The first guest – and the one whose name that many of you will already be familiar with – was former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and ‘national treasure’ Mr Frank Bruno MBE.
After participating in a mass Super Circuits event at the university’s SportsPark, Frank then spoke to a packed lecture theatre about the importance of facing up to and speaking out about mental health issues. Frank’s own battle with mental health problems has been well documented and largely played out in the full glare of the national media, so it is a mark of the man that he is now devoting his energies to stamping out the stigma associated with mental health problems such as bi-polar disorder – from which he suffers. Answering questions on his boxing career, mental health issues and his own ‘Frank Bruno Foundation’ this charismatic speaker entertained the audience with his amusing anecdotes and heartfelt plea to talk openly and without stigma about mental illness.
Sitting among the audience were two other equally important guests – whose names you probably haven’t heard of – but whose personal contribution to providing mental health support for students is exceptional.
Evan and Carol Grant lost their 21 year old son, Cameron, who unexpectedly took his life after a lonely 7 year battle with depression. Cameron didn’t seek help and no one – including his family and his friends at his Uni – knew that he was suffering from depression. Cameron’s parents have established the ‘Cameron Grant Memorial Trust’, producing ‘Cameron’s Coasters’, customised drinks mats which they send to universities, local pubs and sports clubs, and other communities to encourage people to get help. The aim is that by putting relevant helpline numbers on coasters, they might catch someone who is vulnerable and reduce the chances of this happening again. Reading is among the many universities who have benefitted from these free coasters which have been provided to all student rooms in Halls of Residence and are available from Student Wellbeing.
It was a real privilege to have welcomed three such outstanding campaigners to our campus who are working in their different ways towards the same aim: to ensure that mental health problems are talked about openly and without fear and to ensure that students know that support is available when things get tough.
To see Frank’s hints for students: https://youtu.be/7Cr5U55hllQ
To watch the video of his Q & A session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kn8qzqKzeg
Cameron Grant memorial trust website: http://www.camgrant.org.uk facebook.com/CamMemorial