Positivity Week: SRC VP Student Support Jess Mc Grellis responds

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Jess McGrellis

Issues have arisen surrounding the name of the event ‘Positivity Week’ proposed by the SRC. I would like to take this opportunity firstly to apologise for any offence which may have been caused, secondly to correct some misconceptions about the concept behind the week, and thirdly to outline how we plan to move on from here to create a welfare week which will benefit the students of the University of Glasgow.

I am sorry for any offence caused by the choice of the name ‘Positivity Week’. This was not our intention. I believe that there has been a misunderstanding over the concept and objectives for the week, and this misunderstanding has been caused by a poorly-worded email sent out by us to all students. The email incorrectly stated that the main focus of the week would be mental health issues. This is not accurate, which brings me on to my second point.

The thinking behind Positivity Week was to create an inclusive event that would reach out to all students, including those who would not self-identify as having a mental-health problem (one of the reasons ‘Mental Health Week’ would not be a sufficient name). The objective is emphatically not to tell people to ‘smile and be cured’, or indeed to presume to ‘treat’ any kind of mental illness. Rather, we hoped to widen the scope of previous Health and Mental Health Awareness Weeks, and concentrate on the small things that people can do each day to feel more positive about themselves, their friends and fellow students, and their environment. The notion of positivity in relation to mental health and wellbeing is not a new one – it is echoed in NUS Scotland’s ‘Think Positive’ campaign, the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Positive Thinking’ podcast and information materials on ‘Good Mental Health’ and Scottish Association for Mental Health’s ‘Positive Steps for Mental Health’ campaign on getting active, amongst many others.

The overall concept was discussed at the first meeting of Council, and a number of exciting and positive ideas for the week were proposed. I also discussed the proposal with the University’s Counselling and Psychological Service, and with the Equality and Diversity Unit, both of whom were supportive. I do not, therefore, feel that the initial concept and objectives were insensitive or misguided, albeit we failed to communicate these appropriately in our email.

I would like to take this opportunity to say to everyone who supported Positivity Week and was interested in getting involved that I hope that you will still want to get involved in this week. For those of you from Psychology and other areas who were interested in exploring positivity and mental wellbeing there will still be opportunity for that and I hope that you have not been offended by Mr Hainey’s sweeping statement that ‘positivity and mental health issues have nothing to do with each other’. While positivity may not be relevant to some people’s understanding of mental health and wellbeing, we still want to raise awareness of and support those who get by day-to-day with mindfulness techniques and other positive therapies. Furthermore, Mr Hainey, please don’t ‘pointedly refuse to make assumptions about any of the organisers experience with mental health issues’ and then go on to do exactly that.

Having said all of this, I and my colleagues at the SRC do not feel that Positivity Week can continue in its current form with such tension surrounding the name that overshadows what this week is really about. It is important that this issue is put to rest so I have the opportunity to direct my energy into creating a week which will be beneficial and support students in the ways that they need. We have now consulted with Council over the re-branding of the week, and have chosen a new name that reflects the overall broad aims of the week in an appropriate way.

Therefore, I would like to announce that the SRC will be running ‘Welfare Week’ on the 12th-16 of November and are keen for people to get involved. This week will run with an overarching theme focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, mental wellbeing, financial welfare and more to be revealed at the upcoming launch.