Student Minds Cambridge is running an online campaign to give recognition to people doing amazing welfare work, activism or providing some kind of support to students. For the rest of the year, we will be publishing a series of individual interviews on our blog with the nominated ‘Welfare Warriors’.
Our fourth Welfare Warrior is Charley Barnard! Charley is the former Welfare Officer at Newnham College.
‘Charley is always willing to help anyone and fight for the rights of all people. She was an excellent Welfare Officer, very present and involved in student life, and now continues to be a friendly face around College and a moral and respectable person.’
‘Charley has dedicated so much time and effort to her role as Welfare Officer, and does so much to support students from working-class backgrounds in Class Act too. She even uses her Instagram to normalise mental health. I know that mine will be one of many nominations for her.’
Why is talking about mental health important at Cambridge?
It seems to me that having poor mental health has become normalised a Cambridge. We joke about staying up until 3am in the library, being snowed under with work. I think it’s really important that we move the conversation around mental health away from this normalising culture and have meaningful discussions about what we can do to help ourselves feel better. I also think it’s paramount that we’re discussing things that are less normalised and have, in many ways, more stigma attached to them. We need to normalise talking about and getting help for things like psychosis, addiction and personality disorders. Talking about mental health needs to be for everyone, to make everybody feel accepted and they can reach out for help.
What is your favourite self-care tip?
Getting out of the bubble and stroking some pets. As a homeless student, I am in Cambridge all year round and find that it can get incredibly oppressive. The most helpful thing for me is breaking up the monotony of the days with a run (ideally to places highly populated by dogs, such as Grantchester Meadows), or simply just going somewhere I’ve never been before. Things that make me feel normal and get me out of the centre are very helpful.
What would you improve about welfare in Cambridge?
I would end the culture of self-blame and the inconsistency of welfare support between colleges. There’s plenty of places to get help with depression, but it’s significantly harder to access support for addiction. If I could, I would make it mandatory for all tutors in all colleges to receive SAHA training from Amy, the SAHA advisor at the UCS – she’s amazing!
What would you recommend to someone who is struggling with mental health?
Talk about it. Talk to your tutor, your supervisors, your DoS, the Disability Resource Centre. Get help put in place as soon as you can and help people to understand your needs. You are not alone.
What’s the best thing someone can do to support their friends?
Create an environment where it’s normal and acceptable to talk about mental health in all its forms. Joking about it can be helpful, but we need to be able to signify when we’re not joking and we need help and to be heard. Brush up on your active listening skills and be as kind and available as you can, while still putting your own health first!
If you are struggling with your mental health, check out Find Support Cam – an online guide to finding mental health support at Cambridge