Leeds University student, Catherine Reader is set to launch a website entitled “Disability: Depression” on 1st November. This campaign to help eliminate the struggles that face people with chronic mental health disorders. The website will include statistics and personal experiences, to help inspire and educate people, especially students. The website will also suggest support resources for those affected by mental health issues.
According to the charity Mind, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Reader has spoken out about her mental health illness and the stigma around it, saying
“anyone can develop a debilitating mental illness at any time in their life, this website is relevant to everyone and anyone; it is hard enough to live with a disability without also having to experience the shame and stigma of identifying as disabled by mental illness”.
Reader stated that if this campaign can make one less person feel alone then she will have succeeded. The motivation for the website is ultimately an attempt to lessen the stigma around mental health and highlight that people with mental health issues should be properly supported.
Although mental health is being widely discussed and the global stigma is thought to be decreasing, misunderstandings still exist. Reader notes that society “seems to be all too often viewing mental illness as a short-term problem”.
Depression and anxiety now affect one in four students, the number of university drop-outs has trebled and suicides have increased with high-profile case. With higher study expenses and cut-throat job markets after University, there is immense pressure on young adults. Therefore, universities need to be ready to counter this.
The University of Leeds Disability Services offers guidance and support services as well as arranging extended deadlines for coursework. The department works hand in hand with academic departments and other services to “improve access and navigate barriers for disabled students”.
Reader is also part of the programme ‘Scope for Change’, supported and funded by disability charity Scope in which thirteen 18-25 year olds have created campaigns about the importance of recognising mental health as a disability.