Although Oxford University prides itself on progressive thinking and intellectual curiosity, so much more could be done to ensure mental health is not a barred topic of conversation. Due to the fierce stigma attached to suffering from mental illness, many brilliant minds are curbing their potential by suffering alone or resisting admitting they have a problem altogether. Because this pain cannot be recognized externally it is considered illegitimate. The damaging ‘pull yourself together’ treatment is still offered by some tutors and university nurses.

Meeting of Minds was created to restore the legitimacy of mental illness and to foster an environment of open conversation about these issues. We provide a place for students to source information free from pressure to share, meet others facing similar issues and receive answers they may otherwise feel reluctant to ask. We encourage the informal discussion of mental health from an academic perspective, highlighting the biological rather than dispositional nature of mental illness.

Our events focus on one particular topic of either mental or general wellbeing; emphasising that mental health can only ever be considered an extension of general health, combining testimonial and round-table conversation. We want to highlight the universality of mental illness. Hearing a figure students respect speak on such matters can normalize their own suffering and break through any feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

Meeting of Minds hopes to break through any preconceived notions of mental illness and bring together sufferers and nonsufferers alike. We launched at the Union last term with Supersize vs Superskinny’s Emma Woolf and are hugely grateful for their ongoing support. This partnership captures our belief in the power of debate and open conversation; it is the only way of starving stigma. Excitingly, in December the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, invited us to discuss student mental health and this term we will be holding even more film launches and panel discussions which will be announced shortly.

Mental health is a concern for us all. We are dedicated to helping students understand how best to protect their mental health and support their friends and family. We are always thrilled to take on more volunteers – you can join our Facebook page to keep up with planned events and to contribute suggestions for future meetings.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/550005795133844/

meredith.leston@st-annes.ox.ac.uk