Roses’ fundraising failed to start a proper dialogue

While fundraising was impressive, the mental health focus was patronising

Image: Maria Kalinowska

The spirit of Roses throughout the York campus was electrifying. Even those for whom sport is not normally a massive part of their university life couldn’t help but be swept into the frenzy. The university spirit was at its finest, for once uniting the two campuses. Alongside the festival atmosphere of celebration, the words ‘Mind’ flashed on the odd poster, banner and TV screen – a charity that provides support for mental health, something that affects everyone in one way or another.

With the Northern Youth claiming their attempt to raise awareness for mental health through the light show in the opening ceremony, it would imply that the promotion of the charity Mind was overt. However, the effort cannot be described as more than token. The Northern Youth are a creative network of young people celebrating talent in the north of England who say that mental health issues are close to their heart. So, it appeared to be apt for them to collaborate with YUSU and York Sport Union for the opening ceremony which wanted to incorporate the mental health side.

Yet, this message was not conveyed. According to the Northern Youth itself the finale of the ceremony was inspired by the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign; a campaign which spreads “inspiring individual stories” to show that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.” The imagery of the light show is clear, granted a bit patronising; the message however was not. To say that the soundtrack and spoken word poetry was “empowering” is farfetched. If anything, it alienated people as the atmosphere dropped significantly since the basketball game. Despite all the formal information provided about the ceremony, there was no direct link or reference to mental health to be seen.

In order to engage the public with the charity cause, it makes sense to provide as much information as possible in a way that the public can relate to. The fundraising for Mind was incredibly impressive, that cannot be denied. The total, at the time of writing, is £3282.73, exceeding their target of £2500. Nonetheless, Roses presented a strong platform that could have done so much more for the cause. The charity Mind appeared to be just thrown about during the weekend as an “oh look, we’re supporting mental health” statement.

In the closing ceremony, the current University of York chancellor and chairman of NHS England, Malcolm Grant, attempted to link Roses back to mental health in a vague speech mentioning sport’s importance to mental health and the NHS’s improved mental health provision in recent years, not giving any details. A topic as serious as mental health should not just be thrown in lightly, when convenient. When an event like Roses makes the commitment to promote mental health, these token gestures and vague links are almost belittling.

Suggestions for improvement could be pop up clinics, where you would be able to have a quick word about the services available at York or where to look for help. Another alternative would be to provide websites or contacts on posters, leaflets, and TV screens, showing where someone could seek information or help more discreetly.
At the end of the day, what did Roses achieve apart from raise money to help people with mental health problems? Although the money raised is a great achievement, dialogue about mental health at university should be the priority.

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