Yesterday and today my university has been running the “Time to Talk” campaign in the students union. Throughout the days they have been releasing blog posts written by people with mental health problems and also giving out support to those who need it. These aspects of the campaign are useful as they allow us sufferers to express their issues in their own words, rather than having someone dictate what it is like with a particular issue and also informs sufferers of how to get help so they can get support they need more easily.
However, the rest of this campaign leaves a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. The stall in my Students Union and posters of other stalls from around the country are all daubed in flowers and smiley faces and smothered across my universities one is “come and have a chat and some cake,” “free cake here,” “cupcakes,” “be happy” etc. All of this in my opinion is rather tiresome and mildly patronising, implying that we need to be lured in with promises of smiley faces and free food. As if we are wild animals that need to be caught. The presentation of the stalls also ironically promotes the idea that we are all unhappy all of the time, need to be loved and have a person show kindness towards us, which is exactly the kind of stereotype they are attempting to change and combat. People with mental health conditions do not have a set symptom, we are not autonomous and as someone who suffers from severe depression I am not constantly in need of a hug and some kind words. This approach of kittens and cuteness also somewhat dumbs the issue down and hides the true nature of how terrible life with a mental health can be. It is not a fluffy topic so presenting it as one does not help in the slightest, if anything it trivialises it.
Instead I feel that this campaign would be much more educational and actually of some help if there was a day where people could gather in-depth information about each illness, thus educating people and allowing them to spot warning signs in friends or relatives. And also to make the day more about the people who actually suffer from said illnesses rather than emphasising how great it is that non-sufferers are reaching out to us and giving themselves a metaphorical gold star.
All in all, in my opinion the “Time to Talk” campaign has good intentions but is currently not being implemented in the most effective or tactful way. Instead, it just makes me even feel more isolated and “different” compared to everyone else.