Mental Health is something of high importance to students. They require lots of support during their university journeys and it’s important that the representatives they elect are able to guarantee effective services. However, has ‘Mental Health’ become just a buzzword to be littered amongst candidate manifestos? Is it an empty promise and purely a way of securing votes?
It’s clear that mental health is not a priority of the UK Government. No party’s key points ever really alludes to any kind of additional support or service for the people of the country. Their main focus is always the economy. This is quite clearly different in student politics. The aim for student representatives isn’t to acquire more money for the union, but is actually to get more services and support for its people. Candidate manifestos focus on giving more pull for individual student needs, including societies, sports, and the all important mental health.
However, so often it appears that mental health is included in manifestos just for the sake of it. It seems a right of passage to say something about it, even if it’s not relevant and sticks out like a very sore thumb. That’s not to say that it’s not important. Mental health support is needed to be accessible for everyone and in every aspect of their life, whether it’s with their education or the social side. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to be in every manifesto, as though leaving it out would brand you as a bad and uncaring candidate.
The problem is the insincerity.
If you don’t care enough to have put actual thought into it and produce an effective plan, then how much will you actually care about the mental health of the people voting? Just claiming that you will ‘ensure effective care for mental health’ doesn’t actually mean anything in the long run. The point is usually fleshed out with synonyms, not really meaning very much. What is more difficult is seeing some candidates say they are advocates for mental health awareness and see them engage with bullying behaviours online – or having mental health be a new number one priority after seeing it splattered across their competitors’ campaigns. There’s a sense of fakeness and a chase for student votes, when sometimes it’s more important to follow your own beliefs.
Of course, this is mostly a grand generalisation. Our student’s union has roles that are geared towards mental healthcare with the position of Vice President Welfare and Community, so often you will see mental health mentioned within their manifestos. Effective candidates always describe their plan and goals exactly, and this is usually the case for people going for these positions. Mental health is a key part of their role, so not including it in their points would be a bit of a miss. But often you will see candidates including it at the bottom, one sentence long, without really much thought and depth to what they are saying.
So is mental health just a buzzword? I would say mostly. Until services are effective and the sincerity of candidates aren’t pulled into question, then mental health will remain as a way for drawing in the dreams of student voters.