With Candidates for both full-time Sabbatical Roles and Student Leader roles in the midst of campaigning, we interviewed each candidate running for full-time sabbatical roles to find out why they wanted the role and what they planned to do if elected. Wessex Scene Deputy Editor, Nuala McBride, interviews VP Welfare Candidate, Leyla Elsey.
I am here with Leyla Elsey, so why have you decided to run for this role?
A lot of my friends have said to me what’s wrong with the Union and that they want me to change it and actually get it done. I work in lettings and on the reception so I hear students issues with the Union on a daily basis. I feel that I would be a good candidate as I’m a second year student so still in the student mentality. I know that there are changes that should be made and I want to make them.
Your manifesto mentions four themes that you would like to improve on; which do you think is most important and why?
They’re all as important as each other, but I would say that the top priority is mental health. I know of people who have said that it is confusing and don’t know where to go to find help for mental health issues. If you’re suffering from poor mental health, you want to be able to find somewhere to go straight away. You shouldn’t have to google it, why should you have to google it?
Do you think it’s that the University and Union don’t do enough or that the Union needs to advertise more about mental health services?
A bit of both, really. Advertising is a big thing. When I was running for this role and trying to search what mental health services there were available I could only find the GP – that’s all I’ve seen.
What about Enabling Services?
I know that they have a drop in service; but the people there don’t really know what to say. They’ll say that ‘oh you’re suffering from X’; but people say that they don’t think there’s enough help. For example, my friend got told to sort out her own counsellor and she didn’t know how to do this. I haven’t seen enabling services advertised, unless you google it. I know that everyone has access to the internet, but they are not going to think let me google where to go and then find it.
You say that there needs to be more advertising, how would you do this?
I would put up posters in toilets, on the TV’s in the Union, and make sure there’s a poster in every building. Also, through implementing more people, like having someone in the library to speak to as this is where students are at their lowest point. Maybe, through using students who are studying for a PhD in mental health related fields, which will give them some experience too.
Do you think you can put PhD students, who don’t have the expertise and training, in place to help students with poor mental health, given the nature of mental health issues?
It would only be if they were specifically trained on mental health. I wouldn’t put any random student in, it would have to be a specifically trained or someone who wants to go into the field of mental health.
You mention that NUS found 54% of students with mental health issues don’t seek help – why do you think this is?
Maybe because they don’t know where to go or they haven’t really accepted that they have a mental health issue. I think that this should be picked up on. For example, in first year the doctors give you this form when you join (with questions like ‘what’s your alcohol intake?’) and I don’t know where this information goes. This information should be used to identify people with poor mental health, so the University can help them.
Do you not think that a big step with poor mental health is acknowledging that you need help, as you can’t push anyone into it?
No, definitely you have to realise that you have poor mental health; but there needs to be more done with the information that has been collected.
What do you mean by implementing healthier meals – what sort of things are you thinking of?
In terms of healthier meals, I thought about sending out surveys to students asking students what they want. I think there should be more choice for vegetarian and vegans. For vegans, there is one option – falafel wrap and not everyone wants or likes this. In ‘The Bridge’ they have the carvery on a Sunday and the only vegetarian option is a nut roast. Again not everybody likes this.
What do you think of the advice centre?
I like the advice centre. As I work in lettings I send a lot of people up there for tenancy agreements and contracts and I do think that as they are unbiased and separate from the University they are a really good thing to have. Again, that’s something that is not advertised. It’s in building 40, but it’s not very visible there. It should be moved to the glass office in the Union building that is empty and then it would be prominent to students.
How will the buddy system for housing work?
There aren’t many landlords that do single tenancy agreements so I think we should implement a service where you can be matched with potential housemates. If you don’t have anyone to live with, the only option at the moment is living with random people or living in a studio flat which is sometimes unaffordable.
In your role, what will you do for the environment?
I wanted to reduce the food miles. Currently, I don’t know where the University sources it’s food from. I think we need to use local farmers, which may raise the cost, but this would be more sustainable for the University. This would have to go to a student vote, but I don’t think that a slight raise in price if you’re helping out the environment is too much to ask.
Can you give a 30 second closing pitch as to why students should vote for you to be VP Welfare?
If I do get elected as VP Welfare, I do want to work directly with students, I don’t want to make all the decisions myself. I’ll put some forward from suggestions from students, because it’s not just down to me as I’m essentially working for the students. It’s not just going to be down to me.
Leyla Elsey, thank you.