Written by Jemma Dolan, University of Ulster Student’s Union
When I was elected as VP Campaigns & Communications for the University of Ulster Students’ Union in 2012, one of my manifesto points was to de-stigmatise and raise awareness of mental health within UU. I did this because it was something I felt passionate about. I wasn’t in it for the praise or the awards, but I am beyond delighted that it has had this effect.
I had never heard of the Big Lottery Fund or the Awards for All scheme before I started in the Students’ Union. But once I realised our students needed to be provided with suicide awareness and prevention training (PIPS Programmes being my chosen organisation) I began to research funding opportunities and after applying to Big Lottery Fund, we were awarded a grant of £6,940 in February this year to run the project across our four campuses.
Without the funding to provide these workshops, 390 staff and students would not be trained in PIPS Suicide Awareness and Prevention, the University of Ulster would not have reviewed their counselling service and University of Ulster Students’ Union would not have won an all-Ireland award for their mental health campaigns. The awards in April were hosted by the Union of Students Ireland and were attended by President Michael D Higgins. This helped to raise the profile of mental health across Ireland and may have even helped to save lives –numerous long-term positive impacts from a relatively small amount of funding.
I have carried out a lot of work around mental health, but it is only a ripple in the sea. And with the help of funding bodies such as the Big Lottery Fund I hope mental health campaigning and support continues to spread across Northern Ireland.
One in four of us will suffer from a mental illness at some point in our lives. It’s as common and as dangerous as cancer – why can’t we treat it as seriously?
For more information on Big Lottery Fund’s programmes, including Awards for All, see the Big Lottery Fund website