Interview with Ruby Turner: VP Welfare and Community Candidate

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Wessex Scene were able to interview Ruby Turner about their campaign to be the next VP Welfare and Community.

Ruby elected to answer these questions during an interview.

 

Why did you apply for the role of VP Welfare and Community?

I think this is something that’s meant a lot to me since first year. I had quite a difficult experience integrating into university life. I really struggled with my health and my mental health, while it was already not very good, it was impacted a lot by the loss of one of my classmates. This is something that’s really influenced my want to make a change and also to raise awareness for mental health on campus. I feel that this is something that is not spoken about enough. I also feel like this is something that isn’t spoken about in the correct way. One of the things that deeply upset me, while I was processing the experience, was that it was actually spoken about in a derogatory manner. I feel like this is something that needs to be changed, and if you can shed a positive light on the subject, where you’re welcome to share your feelings, you’re welcome to share your darkest thoughts, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed of them or afraid to say how you’re really feeling inside. For example, on the Samaritans website, they say that it’s actually more dangerous to not ask someone about their feelings and not to ask if someone is feeling suicidal, and obviously, that has the most detrimental consequence. You can’t turn back time, once you get to that point, and I guess that is my motivation, my core motivation.

Also my personal experiences with disability services and mental health services on campus as well. I think there are support systems available and I do actually believe that they are good, but I also think that so many people just aren’t aware of them. I was discussing this with my friends and they said, “I wouldn’t know the first go if I was struggling with x, y, and z”. And I said, “you know what, the only reason I do know that is because I had a meeting with enabling when I initially arrived at university and that was only because I have a disability”. So I think this support needs to be available to every student more widely and I think when freshers are initially introduced into the university community, I feel they should have awareness of these services that are available and know that they’re not alone and accessing them as well. I think they need support when it comes to accessing these services and this is something I’d like to introduce.

 

If you are elected, what would be your top three areas of focus?

My number one would be mental health and suicide awareness. I think, regardless of the reason for poor mental health,  it could be abuse,  family complications or, if you’ve been attacked, I think, regardless, it all affects your mental health and I think that is something that needs supporting. Bad things are going to happen. I cannot stop awful things from happening as much as I want to. But what I can do is boycott and I can fight to make sure that people get the support they need and that they know it’s available to them. I also think that students have the opportunity to confide with each other because they feel like there’s a disconnect between students and student communities. And I want to actually encourage students to integrate and to connect with each other, whether that be through charity work or fundraising. These are things that have really meant a lot to me and I found they’re really fulfilling and they’ve helped me grow as a person and I feel like I want to share that. I think why not do good, whilst you’re also interacting and making friends. I think it’s a great way to do that. 

Number two would be introducing animal therapy. Max [Ruby’s dog] is currently in training for animal therapy, to be certified as a therapy dog. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that he will pass his therapy training, and I appreciate that people had concerns over that. I want to address that now. I’m not making promises that he will be a therapy dog officially. However, regardless of my election status, I do promise that he will be available to students and anyone who’s not a student. He regularly has sessions with people already and he’ll spend a few hours with them whatever they need and might transport them over to their house, or they might come to me, or we might meet somewhere public. But that is something that was available far before my campaign, and it will be available far long after my campaign as well. I would also like to implement official animal therapy on campus. I feel like it’s a very good way to deal with trauma and grief and things like that. I found that Max has helped me unbelievably with my social and emotional well-being, and I feel like it’s a way for people to be able to communicate their feelings and emotions without having to feel the pressure of talking. I think a lot of the time you don’t want to talk. You’re in a place where you feel like you can’t cope with expressing yourself verbally. You don’t need to do that with an animal because they’re sentient beings. They’re so sensitive and in tune with you that they just know and I think that’s something that’s really special. It’s really special to me and that’s something I want to share with people. 

[My third point would be a] health and safety implementation. I strongly feel that all committee or some key committee members, especially attending social events or sporting events, definitely feel that they should have first aid and CPR training because anything can happen when you’re on the pitch. You could have a heart attack or you could have a stroke or a fit or anything like that, and someone needs to know how to deal with that. I think having that training will save lives and I think in instances like that you don’t necessarily always have time on your side and speaking for personal experience, I wouldn’t know the first thing to do – I would panic and this is an area that I want to educate myself about as well. I want to undergo relevant training so that I could do my job better or even in general so I can help people more. It’s something that I feel like it’s not even just a campus wide thing, it’s something that should be universal. I feel like committee members, specifically sporting societies, but also at social events – there was a spiking boycott earlier this year. What do you do if someone gets spiked during a social? This is a very real situation that could happen to anyone. I have been spiked personally, and I don’t remember a thing. Someone needs to know how to deal with that. Do they need to be in the recovery position? How do you put them in the recovery position? Check their airways and ensure they’re not choking and I think that is something that I really want to implement and I really noticed that myself as a zumba instructor and I thought, “hang on a minute, what would I do if someone collapsed in my class?” It’s not available and I think that really should be and I’m going to implement it regardless or try my best to whether I’m elected or not because I think this is something that needs to happen instantly. 

 

What’s something that SUSU provides that you like and what is something that you would like to change or alter? 

I like the fact that we have a 24-hour student life team. They’re available 24 hours, seven days a week and you can call them anytime you need. I also liked the fact that when there were concerns about one of my friends, they actually went and checked on them at their house. I think there’s a lot of stick that the university receives for “not doing this, not doing that, not doing well” but I think they are doing a lot and I think there is a lot of support available, but again, there’s a lack of awareness of where to get the help or people don’t feel comfortable getting the help. I feel like people need the support to be able to access these systems that are already in place. Student life is a really good initiative but I think there could be changes made. That’s something I definitely like the idea of because you never know when you’re going to need help at any hour and the support is there for you anytime. I think that’s excellent and really important. 

The only thing I would add would be that I’d like to implement a buddy system. This covers social events and I suppose anything that people would like to go to, but don’t have the confidence to go to alone. It’s like in my first year, I often wouldn’t attend events if I didn’t have someone to go with.  I even went to a class once and I was outside and I didn’t have the confidence to go on my own and, not only was that really upsetting for me internally and it really broke what little confidence I did have, it also showed me that if I just had at least one person that came in with me, even initially for the first few, I would have been able to.  I think that’s something that will be really helpful for people. They would also get to confide in each other and share their insecurities. Creating a sense of community is a really big thing and there’s certain ways I’d like to do that through group work and buddy system where people could go to group events together or as a group and it’s something that I would attend myself even if there was no one there, I would be there just in case. Obviously, I wouldn’t be able to attend every single event – that would be impossible – but I would attend anything I was able to and I also think that having that support group idea would be really good for students. I would like to implement a support group for students that are struggling because sometimes it’s a bit impersonal to be communicating with a counsellor or an older adult who you might not relate to in the same way. I think because mental health difficulties and the other struggles that students experience are rife – that everyone is experiencing difficulty in one way or another. I think having that ability to confine to each other in a safe environment is something that I’d hope would really help people. And also, it’s a great way to connect with others and create a sense of community. Again, I guess we’re all coming back to a sense of community. 

 

How would you offer support to students who hold welfare positions within societies as they are volunteers who usually have to go far beyond their role requirements to support fellow students?

Actually, I had one on my SUSU page and I’d link it back to trainings. First aid trained, CPR trained. I think this is essential and I think also attending educational workshops that cover how to deal with spiking or how to deal with sexual harassment, and how to handle a hostile situation and resolve conflict. I think these are essential life skills – everyone should have them and I think these should be available, not only to society committee members, but I think they should also be available to freshers as well. Introductory lectures in your first week, when you come in as a fresher, they’re not necessarily about the course content but could be overviewing what the university is about. I think this is something that should be introduced, maybe a day or multiple slots that people can attend. They can know where they can access this information and this training. Of course, it’s something we would have to be looked into from a budget perspective, but as far as I’m aware, I was looking at the SUSU website and it appears that trainings are available to societies and committee members, so I just would have to look into the specifics of that and how easy it would be to implement such a broad range of trainings. I think that’s essential. 

 

What do you currently identify as concerns with the current role of VP Welfare and Community and how would you address these? 

I think the Expect Respect movement is huge. I think there could be more done to expose this and make it more campus-wide. I think also ensuring that these core values are shared with the Winchester,  NOCS and Avenue campuses. I think that’s also something that’s really important as well. We mustn’t forget about them and they shouldn’t feel isolated from us just because we are essentially the main campus, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go and travel over there and create events over there.

I think sexual harassment is a key issue and I also think spiking is as well. Maybe not necessarily specifically for VP Welfare, but when it comes to societies and social events. Even in places like Stags – it’s our university bar, anything could happen there. What checks are we doing to ensure that there are no drugs? We do check bags but are there any further checks we could do? Could we ensure that all of the cups are covered?  I know that we offer anti-spiking kits but a lot of the time this stuff isn’t available. For example, I put in a “Have your say?” saying we should have safety devices and rape alarms available. They’re not available in the SUSU shop and they were made available, and that was amazing. It was really lovely to see that they’d listened and it was dealt with quickly. However, there was only a select amount available. Has this been replenished? No, not that I’m aware of. I think it is excellent that we’ve got sanitary products and rape alarms or personal safety alarms, whatever you prefer to call them, condoms as well. I think that’s also important that we have these on site. I think it would also be nice to include self and sexual health testing kits and I’m wondering if that would be something that they could also have available in this section. Someone can go and pick up a kit, post it through the letterbox as they would. I think it would make it a lot easier and more easily accessible and encourage people to test, which is really important. Ideally everyone would be using condoms, but condoms do break and you can never predict a situation.

I think it’s also having appropriate training to deal with hostile situations and I think that is something that is going to be a core issue for any Welfare, or any VP member.  I think knowing how to deal with hostile situations, conflict management, sexual harassment, dealing with spiking again, health and safety training and I think education is the answer. 

 

In your manifesto you mentioned that you want to increase awareness of the mental health services that the University offers. What services are available to students and how would you improve them if you could? 

Student life is available 24/7 and they also will go and do house checks, which I think is excellent. I think the main key issue there is that there’s a lack of awareness of the services. It may be in an envelope when you move into halls but the reality was that I didn’t look for it, though some people do. I think it needs to be plastered everywhere in order for people to really see it. Even if there’s consciously taking in that information. I’ve seen some advertisements, for Solent Mind and things like that, on the back of toilet doors. People do sit and read things when they’re on the toilet and I think that would be something that’s excellent. Putting on the back of doors, having it in lecture theatres on the side, when you’re taking your 10 minute, 15 minute break, like up on pin boards in Stags. I think there are already some but I think it’s just making it explicit – there is confusion about where you need to go. It’s just ingrained from the moment you start at university so you know that support system is there. If you need help accessing that support then that is something that I would like to help as well. Maybe implement an online forum or even a physical box where people could anonymously write to me and give me their concerns. I think confidentiality is really important especially when dealing with sensitive subjects and I think a lot of people don’t have the confidence to share their true feelings, if they know that they could be potentially identified in any way. So I think if you get rid of that potential deterrent then, hopefully, people will be able to come with me with their true feelings and express what they truly want me to work on and then I can address as many of them as possible and I can give these people a voice because I think it’s better to have a voice in some form than not have a voice at all. I think everyone should be given a right to share their feelings and to speak. That is incredibly important.

 

Wessex Scene attempted to contact Maryam Malakoutikhah but unfortunately were not able to set up an interview.

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Wessex Scene Editor 21/22. Top dog. Big cheese. Huge fan of synonyms.

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