"For 73 minutes, do something that brings you joy..."b&together

A walk along King’s Parade this time last year would have been very different to the same walk today. There would have been more people and more racing cyclists, but fewer painted arrows on the pavements and fewer café’s with stacks of chairs in their doorways. The street today is an empty echo of what it once was one year ago, and this makes it easy to look back on life before the pandemic with an unqualified sense of nostalgia. Yet even in pre-pandemic Cambridge, amongst the hordes of people, it was still easy to find yourself feeling alone.

“The damage to student mental health will not simply disappear...”

A walk down a crowded King’s Parade could leave you feeling isolated. Living in an intense bubble where everyone but yourself seems to be getting on with life just fine can lead to overwhelming waves of loneliness and helplessness. For me, looking back on the world before coronavirus means having to be honest that for myself, and for many others, sometimes life in pre-Covid Cambridge meant an isolation beyond self-isolation. Yet at times this pales in comparison to the stress of the last year, when on March 26th 2020 we all headed indoors for an unforeseeable amount of time. The additional pressures of the pandemic had a detrimental impact on student mental health, and b&together want to raise awareness of this on University Mental Health.

Cambridge is an intense environment in normal circumstances. Place all the pressure from short terms and unforgiving workloads in a world being infected with a new virus, and this intensity only soars. Both those coping with mental illness before the pandemic, and those who previously hadn’t identified themselves as having a condition, found themselves living in challenging times. The detrimental impact has been clear to see, and potently felt. Indeed, Mind’s Coronavirus study found that 73% of students experienced declining mental health during lockdown. As we return back to Cambridge, this invisible decline, along with the pent up excitement, socialising, and desire for contact of a year of lockdown, will meet an exam term in full swing.

“...by coming together, we can make our own, positive change”

b&together was started less than a year ago with a mission to destigmatise student mental health, seeking to become a positive force in a world increasingly isolated and atomised to show that no one is alone in their struggle. After a third term of lockdown and isolation, this need has never been greater. That’s why, on this year’s University Mental Health Day (4th March) b&together Cambridge is launching the 73-73 challenge for the 73%. We want anyone and everyone to know that they are not alone.


Mountain View

The Importance of Taking Breaks

So, for 73 minutes, do something that brings you joy. Walk for 73 minutes, read for 73 minutes, or bake for 73 minutes. Then, post a picture of your activity on your Instagram story with the 73-73 Challenge filter. Donate £7 to a mental health charity that means something to you and tag 3 friends to join in and do the same. Through these small acts of self-care, we hope to raise awareness of lockdown’s impact – and make changes for the better.

As the world slowly opens up again, a walk down a bustling King’s Parade becomes more and more likely. But the damage to student mental health will not simply disappear along with the social distancing regulations. The past year of disruption will have long-lasting effects – but by coming together, we can make our own, positive change.

So join us if you can, and while taking some time to help yourself, help others on this University Mental Health Day.