Mental health must not be conflated with partisan politics

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By Max Langer, President of Bristol Liberal Democrat Students

Last week I marched for mental health along with hundreds of other students.

We marched to demand better from our university. We marched to show solidarity with students who suffer in silence every day, and for those no longer with us.

We did not march, however, to cut the rent, for free education or to get the Tories out. To bring in these issues not only muddies the waters, but also alienates people.

Waving Socialist Worker Party placards and complaining about capitalism will not achieve the change that we need.

When I turned up to the march, I knew I would be in the minority. As a card-carrying Lib Dem, I usually am. But, I looked forward to an event where we could come together on an issue we all agree on.

However, within the first speech I knew it was not to be.

Of the five demands stated, only two are actually about mental health. For a march about that singular topic, this is blatantly ridiculous.

This is not me arguing that the other demands are bad, I support transparent governance of the university, cutting rent to a rate affordable to all and ending a ‘hostile environment’ policy.

But, they are not about mental health.

Mental health is a complex topic and many issues feed in to it, I will not argue against that. But, a march for mental health should be about mental health itself.

It should be about better counselling provision and cutting waiting times. It should be about increasing awareness and tackling taboos. It should not be something to hang other political issues off of. It should stand alone.

The march was most powerful when it lived up to its name.

Grace from Support Our Services gave a brilliant speech explaining their work with the university to provide better conditions for all students. I am sure their work with the University will bring real change and I will help them in anyway that I can.

But, waving Socialist Worker Party placards and complaining about capitalism will not achieve the change that we need. Neither will complaining about laws made in Westminster that the university have no say in. However, by uniting and marching with solidarity, focus and compassion we just might make things better.

In response to this, we were told by Support our Services:

'We've taken on board the concerns some had with the political nature of the march and would like to assert that we are an apolitical group. In future, we will aim to be more inclusive of all views because we want to focus on mental health and nothing else. Everyone is welcome in our campaign.'

Featured image: Epigram/Ed Southgate


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