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In Switchboard’s third episode of the term, Amber and Eliza are speaking to various members of our Cambridge community about how to ‘Mind Your Health’ (mental and physical!) during lockdown and plugging various events to help you do so!

Switchboard S3, Ep.3Sam Benatar

Amber begins by interviewing Kit Treadwell, the Men’s Officer for Student Minds, about his experience with mental health and the resources available in Cambridge and beyond. He began by speaking about his personal experience and how despite feeling generally okay, being ‘ping-ponged around’ and not knowing where to direct one’s anger can be immensely frustrating. After speaking positively about St Catherine’s Covid response, he moves on to discuss the Student Minds open letter about everyone with mental health issues being allowed to return to Cambridge. He comments on the disparities between colleges regarding welfare staff available and Student Minds’ mission to support every student with concerns. The conversation then moves on to those who may be struggling but have never felt like ‘mental health’ was something relevant to them. Kit makes the point that despite the focus on mental health being greater, sometimes ‘understanding lags a bit behind compassion’. For example, people may know what depression is but not understand enough to see how it applies to them or how they can help someone who struggles with it, using neurodivergence as an example. In an effort to break the stigma around mental health, Kit opens up about his own experience with antidepressants then discusses the ‘intense end’ of available resources: UCS, NHS counselling, college counsellors and different experiences with therapy. In the ‘middle end’ he mentions college welfare provisions, Nightline, Samaritans, NHS 111 and the idea of ‘casting the net as wide as possible’ to make sure you find the right person or outlet for you. On the smaller end, he discusses the benefits of mindfulness and how important it is to use as wide a range of self care tools as possible to find what works for you. ‘It takes a lot of effort to improve your mental health but little to no effort to resolve to make it better’. (02:47 - 19:23)

Eliza then speaks to Lucy Patchett, one of Varsity’s Sports Editors and captain of the CULNC Jays to discuss the importance of sport even during lockdown. In a normal term, netball takes up a lot of Lucy’s week, giving her a real sense of structure that she is now lacking despite Zoom training. She praises the social element of sport, calling it the ‘most important part of her life at Cambridge’, especially at this time since she knows her team will always be there for her even if they’re not together physically. To find that community nowadays, she recommends finding or starting societies within your college or completing Strava challenges with friends to give you a sense of purpose and unity. Eliza then mentions the world beyond Cambridge and Lucy laments the loss of the unifying ‘global language’ of professional sport, saying we’ll appreciate it more when it returns, even online. Although Zoom workouts or social events with her team are not ideal, she appreciates the sense of team spirit they bring despite being apart. She then encourages all students to try out sport even if they’ve never done it before, saying it increases brain productivity, happiness and allows you to have some valued productive time to yourself. (19:24 - 27:57)

Moving on to fundraising and exciting upcoming events at the university, Amber and Eliza chat to the co-presidents of Cambridge Pink Week, Evie Vennix and Anna Gray. Their aim is to raise money and awareness for breast cancer through their three pillars of education, fundraising and inclusion, although 2021’s week will look a bit different to previous years. They open up about how they came to be involved with Pink Week and became presidents then proceed to talk about the 6 charities they’re supporting this year: Black Women Rising, Coppafeel, Breast Cancer UK, Teenage Cancer Trust, Breast Cancer Now and Breast Cancer Haven. Although these charities’ have suffered a lot because of the pandemic, they’re all doing their best to keep fundraising online, making Pink Week’s impact all the more important. They discuss charity events they’ve attended to raise money from danceathons to trampoline bounces, bringing breast cancer in men into the conversation as well. Amber then moves on to health anxiety during this time, which Anna immediately says she can relate to and encourages people to turn to these charities who are still very much there to help. She describes knowledge as ‘the best defence’, getting to know our bodies well enough to go see a medical professional when necessary is key. Evie brings in the mental health aspect as well, saying they will draw attention to how breast cancer can impact everyone surrounding the patient and try to develop a generally positive atmosphere in their events. Anna emphasises the crucial links between how getting outside and maintaining your physical health can impact your mental health. They conclude by discussing all the various events that will take place in this very different Pink Week, from educational talks to online escape rooms and mentioning keeping an eye out for college reps too. (28:20 - 41:49)

Eliza then concludes the episodes by speaking to Katie Heppell the co-chair of Cambridge RAG about their plans for the term. Blind dates will still be going ahead online and although there are setbacks, she comments that this is an opportunity to do something a bit different and meet people in a time where that seems impossible. It was put on last term too on a smaller scale, and although the uptake was lower than usual she is optimistic for involvement in this term. She relates the struggle charities are experiencing due to Covid and talks about those RAG are supporting this year: Jimmy’s Cambridge, The Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, Refugee Action, Blueprint for All and Action against Hunger. To get involved with RAG more generally, Katie encourages listeners to consider becoming college reps and running their own events alongside the university wide ones. Eliza moves to a more personal note, asking how partaking in fundraising and RAG has helped Katie’s wellbeing in lockdown. She comments on how helpful it can be to feel productive without always doing something related to her degree and that working for charities helps her put today’s struggles into perspective. She advertises RAG’s challenge events as a great way of feeling a sense of purpose during this time and has something to look forward to. Several more exciting events are discussed from blindfolded meals to skydiving, as a way of keeping RAG a part of normal Cambrigde life and fundraise for some amazing causes. (41:58 - 56:38)

Switchboard is Varsity’s flagship podcast. Episodes are broadcasted every Friday at 8:30pm on Cam FM, and are available on all major podcasting apps via Anchor.