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YUSU Elections 2017: Thomas Underwood (Community & Wellbeing)

Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students' Union
Image: the University of York Students’ Union

Thomas Underwood is one of the candidates running for the position of Community and Wellbeing Officer in the University of York Students’ Union.

What inspired you to run for the position?

I think my drive can be split into two categories- experience and students. I’ve been through the system, unity health, open door, IAPT, the whole works, and I’ve seen what needs fixing. The other side of that coin is the students here at York. There is so much potential here, people full of energy and ideas, so I want to ensure that the environment for those students is one where they can learn and discover themselves with the most welcoming and the safest community possible.

What makes you different from the other candidates?

I’m driven beyond belief. I think my passion for wellbeing and mental health promotion is honestly what sets me apart, having been a part of various organizations (Mental Health Awareness Project, Constantine Students Association etc), I truly believe that I have proven to be absolutely dedicated to this cause. Aside from that, I think it’s my policies that provide the cornerstone for my candidacy. They’re pretty ambitious, but they’re absolutely achievable. But more importantly, they’re tangible – the effects that they will have will be felt by everyone, not just a select few. I want you to be able to see the results of my term, not just as data on a spreadsheet, but as visible effects to your student life.

How would your policies change student life at York?

I want to make sure that student wellbeing is at the top of the agenda. This will mean that welfare support won’t just be an option for a handful, rather it will be a 24/7 presence on campus. One of my policies is providing all members of the porter and security team with mental health first aid training. This will ensure that if you’re having a mental health crisis, then the first line of support will be well equip to deal with the situation.

What challenges do you expect to face in this position and how will you respond to them?

I would imagine that the biggest issue would be red tape. From my experience as Community and Wellbeing Officer I know that there is an endless amount of paperwork associated with the role, which I am of course prepared to deal with. Making sure the university is held accountable won’t be easy, but with the force of the student body behind me, I have no doubt that we can ensure that we can hold them to their promises without too much difficulty.

What has been your most enjoyable experience at university?

There are so many! Perhaps one of the highlights was playing in the Underwater Hockey student nationals in my first year. We lost every single game, but honestly, the connections that I made there, and the fun of it all will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life.

What are the greatest challenges to wellbeing that students face on campus?

Mental health. There is no doubt in my mind from the experiences I’ve had with other students that there is no one greater threat to student than the mental health crisis on campus. There is so much we can do to support students with mental illnesses, and unfortunately there are definitely systems that are simply not up to scratch. The care plans for students need a serious update, and leave of absence students are left in the dark when trying to return to uni. There needs to be radical reform in these areas, and it’s only by cooperating that we can do this.

As told to Sophie Reaper