Have you heard of HeadsUP!? Well, be sure to read on whether you have or not. HeadsUp! is a great volunteering project, as Natalie Jackson, HeadsUp! Chair, informs Label.
Let’s begin with the most important question, Natalie, what is Heads Up!?
HeadsUp! comes under both the welfare and diversity section of the union, but we also stray into Action as well for our volunteering section. Izzy (the welfare VP) classed us as an association which essentially encompasses everything we do.
Sounds great. So,what are your main aims?
Our main aim is to promote positive mental health and wellbeing across campus. We want to remove the stigma of mental health. There are loads of ways people could need assistance or someone to talk to at university. It's a big strain on a person to have all these pressures- growing up, work, the future, relationships, deadlines- and to think you have to just 'deal with them' is completely wrong. We hope to show people that it's okay to need a little help or to take some time out once in a while, maybe point them in the right direction if they really find themselves in trouble. Mental health issues are nothing to be scared of or ashamed of, especially when you consider we're on a university campus full of the most vulnerable age group.
A very helpful project, I’m sure. When and how was Heads Up! founded?
I've been involved in it for two years now, but it was in place before me. Originally it was set up by using alumni money from the Loughborough University Development Trust, who wanted to establish a student lead initiative to promote positive mental health and wellbeing: offering students information without them having to go to anything official.
Who can get involved and how can people do so?
Everyone! We have no restrictions on who can get involved at all. It is inspirational to speak to people who have gone through the things you are campaigning for, and to hear from them how much you could be making a difference.
If you want to volunteer, go on the LSU site, click on volunteering, head to the section 'supporting people' and from there buy HeadsUp! We're completely free to join and it adds you onto our emailing list.
We also run tonnes of events to get involved with. Usually free and always laid back, we try to offer an alternative away from the usual drinking culture of Loughborough. For information on these go to our Facebook page where we always have updates: https://www.facebook.com/groups/514070745344477/
Brilliant! What made you want to become part of the project?
I received an email in my first year, advertising committee spaces.. Until then I hadn't heard of HeadsUp! and found that really bad, especially because it seemed like such an important asset to university life. I could have done with a group like HeadsUp! in my first year. I was initially appointed media officer. This year I am Chair and loving it!
What sort of work do volunteers carry out?
Volunteers can spread the message far and wide. Campaigning work usually involves letting people know about mental health issues face-to-face. We also encourage a lot of social blogging because sometimes students are (admittedly) attached to their computers.
Fundraising is also important for us because we're a self-funded group, all of our money for expenses we have to raise ourselves. Bakesales and sponsored walks are on the cards so far We also give a proportion of our earnings to the charity we are assigned to: Student Minds. They run a big initiative throughout the UK: it is them who supply the resources we need for campaigns. It is also through them I am hoping to set up a peer mentor scheme: another way for volunteers to get involved.
What benefits are there for volunteers?
Personally, I think the benefit lies in doing something to help other people. I may not have any mental issues myself, but who's to say I won't in the future? Or that my friends/family might develop something? I have always taken part in the events with the mind-set that one person helped, is one person who won't go home feeling like they are alone in their struggle.
Of course these hours that the volunteers spend are added up to an action hour total at the end of the year which they can get certificates for if you want to put it in a physical sense of reward.
Can you give a few examples of some of your work/ campaigns?
Last year we ran depression, anxiety and exam stress campaigns. Right now we are doing a short campaign on homesickness, and we have more planned for the rest of the year. We're very open to input from the volunteers and student body about what they would like to cover as well. We're planning on doing an eating disorders campaign next year around February.
Has Heads Up! won any awards?
Last year HeadsUp! won a highly recommended award for 'Friends of Welfare and Diversity'. We also won the 'Action Project of the Year' award, putting us as the most improved project on campus!
If you’d like to get involved, make sure you like the Facebook page, follow HeadsUp! on twitter @lboroheadsup and remember to check them out on the LSU page.