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EDIT OR Linnea Lagerstedt editor@wessexscene.co.uk DEPUTY EDITO R Macey McDermott deputy-editor@wessexscene.co.uk H EAD O F DESI GN Benjamin Smyth design@wessexscene.co.uk H EAD O F I MAGERY Mary Frances Rose image@wessexscene.co.uk ONLINE & MARKETING MANAGER Lauren Green online-manager@wessexscene.co.uk HEAD OF EVENTS AND OUTREACH Luke Boulton events@wessexscene.co.uk S UB-EDITO RS

Alice MacArthur

Rebecca Williams

Farida Yusuf

FE AT URES EDITO R Katie Byng-Hall features@wessexscene.co.uk OPINI O N EDI TO R Tom Collyer opinion@wessexscene.co.uk POLITICS EDITO R Sam Pearson politics@wessexscene.co.uk SCIENCE & TECH EDITOR Lisa Stimson science@wessexscene.co.uk LIFE S TYL E EDI TO R Megan Gaen lifestyle@wessex scene . c o . uk T RAVEL EDI TO R Laura Prost travel@wessexscene.co.uk SPOR TS EDITO R Kai Chappell sport@wessexscene.co.uk PAUS E EDITO R Emily Dennis pause@wessexscene.co.uk N EW S & I NVESTIGA TI O N S


Drawing to a close… It feels like only yesterday that I sat down to write my first ever editor’s letter for Wessex Scene. The end of the 2020/2021 academic year is quickly approaching and we wanted to finish on something that has been evermore important this year than any before: mental health. The mental health pandemic has been ongoing for much longer than Covid-19 but as we have all isolated away from friends and family, mental wellbeing has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Ever since I was young, I’ve struggled with debilitating mental health issues. I say this, because despite conversations about mental health being held around friends, university departments and even parliament, mental illness is still heavily stigmatised. Eating right and going for walks can help, but it is also not the end all be all cure for mental illness. It isn’t just feeling down sometimes, mental illness can manifest itself in some pretty ugly symptoms. I spent three years on SSRI antidepressants battling depression, anxiety and PTSD. You are not alone in this struggle. I hope that anyone reading this who’s struggled in the past or is struggling now can find some solace in the coming pages. This magazine includes multiple personal accounts of battles with mental illness, but it also discusses the way mental health is talked about in the media, in government and in wider society. To read about why we get mental health wrong, head to page 16. Many university students find themselves suffering under an intense pressure to succeed, you can read about why scientists are prone to mental health issues at page 28. Sports at university can be a great resource to relieve stress and help mental health (p. 30), but it can also exacerbate other issues. To read about coxing and the impact of weighing in on mental health in sports, head to page 31. If there is one thing you take away from this magazine, I hope it is that there is help available. For samaritans and university mental health services contact information, please see the backcover of this magazine. Lastly, as this is our final magazine of the year, I want to take this opportunity to thank my amazing team as well as you, our reader, for the continuous support throughout this year. 2021 has seen Wessex Scene being named the best student publication in the south east of England, and we never could have done it without you. Your Editor, LINNEA LAGERSTEDT Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this magazine belong to each author alone - Wessex Scene is a neutral publication which aims to publish views from across the student body. To respond with an opposing opinion, please contact opinion@wessexscene.co.uk or join our Opinion Writers’ Group.


Alishia Markwell

Ruby Wood

AlyssaCaroline Burnette














F B . C OM / W S C E N E @OF F IC IAL W E S S E X S C E N E 3





hen I was a little girl, I had a secret: I believed I wasn’t a real person.

Sure, I looked like a person. I could see that I had the same basic components as anyone else - hair, skin, eyes, a face - but it was the self beneath the surface that bugged me. One of my earliest memories is the sensation that everyone in the world spoke a language that I didn’t know. Everybody else knew when to laugh at the right moments and how to say the right things. Everybody else seemed able to converse easily, and I just… couldn’t.


No matter what I said or did, it seemed wrong in some undefinable way. So I watched other people closely, hoping that careful observation would teach me how to imitate a ‘normal human being’. No one else appeared to experience physical pain when confronted with certain lights or colours. No one else seemed to find eye contact violating or feel as though another person’s eyes were boring into the most intimate parts of their soul. I learned to pretend that I didn’t feel that way either. I arranged my face into a careful mask of socially appropriate emotion. I tried to smile and laugh MENTAL HEALTH

at the ‘right’ moments, all the while thinking, ‘my laugh sounds fake. I talk like a robot. Any minute now, someone’s going to realise I’m not real.’ I ridiculed myself for my own early experiences with sadness or anger, believing that even my emotions weren’t real. It wasn’t long before I developed the belief that I didn’t deserve to feel or express anything. I don’t know what I thought would happen when other people discovered I wasn’t like them, but I lived in dread of being discovered. My parents were always kind and supportive, and you would’ve thought that would make me feel comfortable enough to confide in them. Yet, their kindness made me hide my feelings all the more. I didn’t want them to be disappointed when they realised that I wasn’t the ‘real’ human child they’d hoped for. The pressure to keep up the performance was exhausting so I developed rituals to comfort myself. I counted the cracks in the sidewalk, believing that if I counted all of them and landed on an even number, everything would feel right in my head. I scheduled every moment of my day. I colour-coded my crayons and dolls. I lined them all up in an order that could never be broken, believing that the slightest deviation from my rigid structure was on par with the apocalypse. Once my obsession with organisation set in, the intrusive thoughts weren’t far behind. I became terrified that I would blurt out swear words in church or say something unkind to people I loved. I knew I didn’t want to do those things, but the fear that I might do so against my will was so powerful that I would often clap my hands over my mouth or dig my nails so sharply into the skin of my palms that I left deep crescent indentations behind.

to see if my worst fears made me a terrible person in the court of public opinion. It never once occurred to me that I might have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I certainly didn’t think I might be autistic. I had only ever seen these conditions represented in movies like Rain Man and through off-hand comments like, ‘I’m so OCD!’, to describe someone who liked to clean a lot. Far from envisioning a medical explanation, I had spent my life assuming that I was inherently broken and bad. I was 23-years-old before I realised there was a name for the hell in my head and that none of it was my fault. I was also shocked to learn that 92% of people who have OCD also battle at least one other disorder and that there is a high comorbidity rate between OCD and autism. Today, I firmly believe that misrepresentation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder played a significant role in my years of silent suffering. If I had known that OCD was more than washing your hands or liking a tidy house, I would have sought help earlier. As I’ve been more open about my struggles, I’ve learned that hundreds of other people have suffered, undiagnosed and untreated, for the same reasons. That’s why I want to reiterate that OCD is not a joke. OCD is not an adjective. It’s not a synonym for organised. OCD savaged my childhood and stole years of my life before accurate representation empowered me to seek help. If you think you might have OCD, I hope my story can inspire you to pursue treatment. If you don’t have OCD, please think carefully about your words. You never know what someone is going through, and you never know how the misinformation you spread could impact their future.

As the years passed, I would often lose 8-10 hours of my day in silent, obsessive rumination, reviewing my exact words or actions in a feverish scrabble for certainty. I needed to know that I had not said or done something bad or offensive, and I became terrified of the possibility that I might have said or done the wrong thing. When I couldn’t find certainty in mental review, I went down a Google rabbit-hole





y relationship with my mental health has always been rocky, to say the least.

When I was eight years old, I started experiencing panic attacks - not that I had a clue what they were at the time. Fast forward to age 16, and a psychotherapist came to my school to talk to us about addiction. Quickly realising this Year 11 group of girls wasn’t really her target audience, she began to speak about mental health. Growing up, mental health wasn’t widely spoken about. Whilst it became abundantly clear that a huge chunk of my secondary school’s students were struggling without the necessary support, no one truly knew what anxiety, depression, or eating disorders were. At 16, I went to my first counselling session. I worried about ‘what if I run out of things to say’, ‘what if they can’t help me’, or ‘what if I don’t get on with them?’ Admitting you need help is terrifying but it’s also extremely brave, and with each step you take to getting the help you need, it gets easier. The summer before I joined university in 2018, I had neurosurgery. I was stubborn and refused to delay uni and recovered significantly faster than they anticipated. Upon starting university, I threw myself into it and inevitably burned out. As my mental health declined, it wasn’t just anxiety I was dealing with anymore - I was growing more and more depressed. I cried most days, and eventually started experiencing harmful thoughts. Whilst I felt I wasn’t going to act on them, I started to notice my friends and family were worried. I went for an emergency GP appointment the next day. Admitting I was struggling all over again was terrifying. I didn’t have coping mechanisms for depression. I was in psychotherapy, and I recovered, but fast forward a year and I went back to therapy again. The big difference this time is I accepted the help of antidepressants from my GP. What I have learnt is recovery isn’t linear, and these are likely things I will have to manage for the rest of my life. When I first went back to therapy I thought I had failed, but an important person in my life reminded me of the same thing I have reminded others, and that is that seeking help isn’t failing at all. Accepting you need help takes courage, and I would be failing myself if I did not recognise that.


When I first started antidepressants at the end of 2020, I worried about what my peers would think. The taboo surrounding mental health, and specifically SSRIs, is a dialogue I think we should all make the effort to normalise. We have all struggled throughout the pandemic. With a significant rise in mental health issues, now more than ever is the time to break the stigma. Why should I hide that I take medication? Why is it perceived any differently to the medication I take for neuropathic pain? I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazingly supportive and compassionate friends who have never made me feel invalidated or a burden, but I know this is extremely fortunate. I urge you to take that first step if you feel you are struggling. Psychotherapists, GPs and mental health nurses are there to support you. I promise you that day by day it gets easier. Announcing on a public platform the degree to which I have struggled still makes me feel nervous, but the more we dismantle the harmful narrative surrounding mental health, hopefully one day you won’t have to feel worried about what someone will think, or be so scared to accept help. WORDS BY ALICE MACARTHUR IMAGE BY SYARIFAHBRIT VIA FREEPIK.COM


COVID’S INFLUENCE ON MY MENTAL HEALTH According to Dr Antonis Kousoulis, the Director of England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation, ‘There is no vaccine to protect our mental health against the consequences of the pandemic. Instead, we need to focus on prevention.’ This statement resonates with me, as the pandemic has actually urged me to seek professional help for my mental health, including starting a course of medication for my anxiety. Looking back a year, I think my past-self could not have imagined taking such a large step for my wellbeing, and I partly thank the pandemic for urging me to do this.


he pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s general wellbeing and has caused a lot of panic worldwide. With the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown passing back on 23rd March, it is important to reflect on the impact it has caused on mental health. My mental health is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. In particular, I have had issues with anxiety, from finding it hard to be calm in social situations to generally feeling worried and overthinking with no apparent cause. The pandemic has only heightened this. I vividly remember the panic caused by the announcement of the first lockdown in March 2020, and I do not think that I have really calmed down since. It has been exhausting seeing people not taking the pandemic seriously. Being aware of people being selfish by having house parties and going out when they shouldn’t makes me both exasperated and angry. Why should these people be allowed to socialise and enjoy themselves while the people taking the pandemic seriously have been essentially stuck at home for a year feeling hopeless and lonely? Not only this, having family members who are classed as vulnerable makes me extra cautious about the virus, and seeing people act in this selfish manner worries me deeply as there is always a risk to my loved ones if they continue.


The transition to online learning has been quite difficult for me, and struggling with participation has been a main issue. The mere thought of an online seminar had me stressed days in advance. Luckily, I have had very supportive lecturers who have been more than willing to help me throughout this year. This feeling of anxiety and stress that I have had throughout this semester, both in terms of the content of my degree and the strain placed on me by the pandemic, urged me to take steps to attempt to improve my mental wellbeing. It is a work in progress, but it is something that I could not have imagined myself doing in the past. The pandemic has definitely placed a strain on my, and no doubt others’, mental health. The best solution I’ve found during this difficult time is trying to distract myself. Whether this is by watching a comfort TV show of mine, or going for a walk, it is good to try and clear your mind. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I think asking for a helping hand is one of the biggest steps when struggling with your mental health, and taking it is definitely worth celebrating. Remember that you are not alone during this difficult, unpredictable time.






he past year everyone has had to adjust to working from home at some point. As a final year university student, I won’t be alone in admitting it has been pretty tough to master the WFH routine. Whilst I am still prone to burning out, here are a few preventative tips.

Timetable Something I have found helps with online uni is creating a schedule for each week. You could purchase a weekly planner desk pad with either allotted times or split into morning, afternoon and evening. I find listing what I need to do each day at the start of the week has ensured I don’t create unrealistic goals each day. Blu-tacking this over my desk as a visual for my week makes uni seem a little less overwhelming.

Daily exercise With very few places to go in the current climate a daily walk helps to split up the working day. Alternatively, you could mix it up each day with a run (check out the Couch to 5k app) or a yoga tutorial with Yoga with Adriene. Ensuring you’re moving your body daily can really help to create a routine and give you that much needed headspace away from work. Combining your exercise with socialising is so invaluable too, as we haven’t had many opportunities to see people face to face this past year.

Meal planning Granted, Covid-19 has made it very easy to just want to chuck a frozen pizza in the oven or order a takeaway, but meal planning can really help create structure throughout your week. Having the routine of cooking a nice dinner in the evening helps to drag you away from your desk and to concentrate on something else for a little while. You don’t have to go crazy gourmet with your cheffing skills, a simple pasta bake can be just as exciting! Additionally, if you cook a meal that serves four, you can bung a couple Tupperwares into the freezer for the days you’re feeling particularly low on energy.

Sleep hygiene Maintaining a regular bedtime schedule is really beneficial to avoiding burnout. According to the NHS website, most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night. As students, our sleep routine gets regularly interrupted and whilst trying to make up for that lost sleep is extremely tempting, this can be equally disruptive. Before bed, I like to *try* putting my phone away one hour before sleeping, have a bedtime tea (yes that’s a thing), and read a non-uni related book. Although, it’s so tempting to scroll through TikTok! 8

Desk space The space in which we do our work at home has a big impact. Creating as much of a clutter-free, quiet environment as you can will make those Teams calls that little bit less anxiety provoking.

Journalling Writing down all your thoughts and feelings may seem naff, but when you can’t talk to someone about your day or don’t want to worry about burdening others, pick up a pen and write a stream of consciousness that releases all your worries at the end of the day. In doing so, you can start tomorrow afresh and go in with a clear mind.

Listen to your body Most importantly, listen to your body because that is simultaneously going to benefit your mental health. Sitting in a desk chair all day is going to have a big impact. If you feel as though you’re burning out, take a break (or a whole day). There is always tomorrow, and in such unusual times, it is imperative we prioritise our mental wellbeing.





ood is an important part of our daily routines, from first thing in the morning to the end of the day. It is our fuel to get us through the day, but it is also key to feeling good and improving our mood. Here are some food and drink recommendations to include in your diet and some general tips that will help you feel good.

Keep Hydrated Drinking will help you to stay alert and be able to think clearly. Water is easy to get hold of and usually free. Make sure to keep hold of your water bottle though, or use a reusable one, and search for somewhere to top it up via the Refill app. This way you will be able to easily find places to refill your water bottle so you can stay hydrated all day.

Limit Caffeine Intake

Eat Healthy Fats Healthy fats should not be shied away from. Our brains need the fatty acids, like omega 3 and 6, to function well. These healthy fats can be found in oily fish, poultry, avocados, olive oil and much, much more. Be careful of trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils though as they both increase bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, so they are not the best to have all the time. These are all recommendations on what we should do, but you intuitively know what’s right for you and what your body needs at specific times. Some days you may follow healthy nutritional advice but a takeaway or a slice of cake can be a part of a balanced diet too. It is important to follow the health guidance given to us and make sure to keep our diet moderated. Eating well benefits our physical and mental health, so it’s important to listen to your body.

Caffeine can be useful in that it gives you a burst of energy and is usually found in coffee, tea or energy drinks. However, because caffeine is a stimulant, it can give you that quick boost followed by a dip, which could result in feeling anxious or losing sleep. Try switching to decaf versions of your favourite drinks to manage your caffeine and subsequently your mood.

Eat Your 5 A Day Fruit and veg are not just good for your physical health, but can also benefit your mental health too. Try to aim for 5 portions of fruit or veg everyday. Your fruit and veg intake can be fresh, frozen, tinned, dried, or juiced.

Get Enough Protein Protein is key as it is part of a well balanced diet and keeps us fuller for longer and helps support stable energy levels. Protein contains amino acids, which are needed by our brains to regulate our emotions. No matter what your dietary preferences, there is a protein source available to you. For example, meat, fish, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, cheese, soya products, nuts and seeds.






ur minds and bodies are interconnected. They rely on each other to function flawlessly as one unit. This is something I have struggled with a lot over the years, leaving me placing unreasonable demands on my head to perform to perfect standards, without considering the physical impact that this has on my body. If you feel bad physically, it will often affect your mental health as well. Vice versa, bad mental health negatively impacts our physical health. Many of the challenges we face are actually more about overcoming what we tell ourselves that we cannot do, rather than the physical challenge in front of us. One of the greatest challenges in life is getting to know yourself and your body. The challenge of understanding the dos and don’ts for your own body makes approaching this topic so difficult. Every person is different. We all have different thresholds and triggers when it comes to knowing what and how much is too much for the body to cope with.

Understanding that I did not always need to be sprinting and could simply be having a jog with a view was a gamechanger for me. I still get pangs of guilt when I decide to be kind to myself by not cramming piles and piles of work into such a short space of time. Simply adapting the way I approached work, even by allowing myself to have short breaks between hour-long study sessions has been truly revolutionary for my mental health. Fighting back against what I needed mentally only caused me more trouble physically in the long run. Learning the importance of the connection between your physical and mental health is challenging. It takes time to establish good habits, but the reward most definitely outweighs the risk. It will enable you to live a much happier and fulfilled life. It sounds ridiculous when you put it all down on paper, but it is a skill that really has taken me many years to develop. I am not a master of this outlook on life just yet, but I feel accomplished enough having simply made the first steps, which is always a good place for any change to start.

Part of the process of getting to know yourself is accepting that all people are different in the way that their body reacts and copes with mental health challenges. I, for one, consider myself to have quite a high threshold when it comes to important issues in day-to-day life, but on the other end have a low threshold when it comes to the more trivial problems. As backwards as this once seemed to me, it is something I am learning to deal with and adapt to, to ensure that I treat myself with enough patience and respect as I would expect from another person. A key example of the importance of being kind to oneself is burnout. Lately, under the enormous pressures of lockdown, I have started to approach this situation differently. Before, I would see myself as a roadblock and a burden to the goals that I originally wanted to achieve, but now I choose to let my head lead my physical self, rather than the other way around. When my head tells me it is time to stop, I respect what it is telling me and react accordingly.



THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA This is all before we even start thinking about the real issue of TikTok. The eating disorder pages, the mental health jokes that sometimes, when there are just that one too many, start to hit that little bit too close to home. Suddenly TikTok starts to feel like Tumblr in 2012 and triggering posts make up too many of the videos that appear. Whilst recovery communities can certainly be great, if it’s triggering to you, it can seem hard to escape that side of TikTok even when you want to. Even when you click the ‘I don’t want to see this’ button. Things don’t improve when you switch over to Instagram. Despite doing a major purge of my Instagram feed to remove content that makes me feel insecure, it’s still there. I’m insecure at my running pace, courtesy of Strava screenshots, the fact my never-had-a-baby-tummy is bigger than the 6-week postpartum tummy of a girl I went to school with. CW: Body Image, ED.


ocial media can be great. I’m sure we’ve all spent countless hours scrolling through Instagram, TikTok and Twitter escaping the mind numbing boredom of lockdown. We’ve seen the funny TikToks and Reels, the cats not quite reaching their jump, the anecdotes from parents spending lockdown with their ‘terrible twos’. But, as I’m sure many know, it’s not all fluffy animals, laughs and relatable content. I’ve spent many a lockdown hour on TikTok, my For You page has been finessed so perfectly every video is relatable. Every one sent to one of my poor friends no doubt sick of the endless stream of videos I subject them to. But amongst them, courtesy of the self-deprecating content I do sometimes enjoy, my TikTok FYP can go that step too far. Who knew there were so many parts of your body to be insecure about? Until TikTok, I did not realise you could get surgery to make your forehead smaller (15-year-old majorly self-conscious about her five-head me would have been all over that), or that you could have your double chin dissolved with a simple (if not slightly risky) injection. Apparently, I now need to be self-conscious about my side profile and my hip dips. Things I’d never even noticed in myself before, and trust me the insecurities already run deep, I’m now painfully aware and insecure of.


The toxic nature of some of these apps means that even if it’s not body image issues, the negative side effects can come from the relentless posts about how much of a fun time so-and-so is having with their mates. Whilst this is certainly less due to lockdown, we’ve had those posts in the intermittent lockdown periods, the pre-Covid period and no doubt the competition to see who can have the best post-lockdown summer come 21st June. The questions of am I living my life enough? Am I socialising enough? Do my friends actually like me? Questions that all can have a negative impact too. But we have to remember that people really only post the highlights of their lives. Nobody is going to share on their public Instagram the photos that they hated, the times they spent crying or the arguments they had in what looks like a perfect day otherwise. Maybe that’s the real negative side, that so much of it is fake. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to use the apps. I still enjoy them. But I definitely think knowing when to get off is key and purging your FYP and who you follow to reduce that negativity as much as possible is important.





Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


n an interview with Channel 4 News on February 10th, Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker stated that: ‘We cannot cancel life to preserve every life’. This was in response to Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, warning people against booking summer holidays, something which Sir Walker believes has robbed people of hope that they desperately need. He has argued that national lockdowns designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 have endangered the public’s mental health, and that continued restrictions were unnecessary thanks to the vaccine. At the time of the interview, 13.5 million people had received their first dose of the vaccine, but on that same day, 13,537 also tested positive for COVID-19, and 604 people died of it. Deaths peaked at 1360 on January 19th, before Sir Walker voted against further restrictions with 15 others. Many of these cases and deaths were completely avoidable, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August and September caused as many as 17% of new COVID-19 infections. Add to this the first lockdown being eased prematurely, a delayed second lockdown, and the disaster that was Christmas. If people had not been encouraged or allowed to mix, perhaps the UK would not still be dealing with COVID-19, and we would not have the 5th highest number of deaths in the world. Sir Walker’s comments that people should be given hope and be allowed to go on as normal are dangerous, and lockdown restrictions need to continue for as long as is necessary. Yet, he raises questions about the impact of lockdown on our mental health, as well as how we prioritise mental health against physical health. According to the Office for National Statistics, anxiety was far above pre-lockdown levels. People’s satisfaction and happiness were at a record low around the time of the interview, and in August depression among young adults and women had doubled. During the first lockdown, the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that 43% of psychiatrists saw an increase in urgent and emergency cases, 45% also reported a fall in routine appointments, and the charity Mind found that for a fortnight in April 2020, 1/4 of people who attempted to access mental health services did not receive any help.


Sir Walker suffers from OCD, and has spoken in Parliament about the need to tackle mental health alongside the physical effects of COVID. The Budget announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on March 3rd did address some issues. With £10m to support veterans mental health needs, as well as an extension to furlough and the Universal Credit uplift which should help tackle some of the causes. However, Mind said the measures ‘fall far short of what is needed’, and the ‘chronically underfunded mental health services’ must receive government investment ‘alongside wider social issues.’ Sir Walker’s anti-lockdown position has been associated with the equally dangerous opinions of fellow Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne, who believed NHS figures were manipulated to exaggerate COVID-19, and endorsed an anti-vaccine group. Or with the DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who opposed the new restrictions because they had failed in the past (while ignoring the fact they had been mishandled), and were a threat to ‘businesses… jobs… education… the national debt… and remove basic liberties.’ To end lockdown prematurely for any reason, mental health included, will have the same unnecessary result: more cases, more deaths, and a longer pandemic. This would have a devastating impact on mental health. Therefore, to tackle the growing mental health crisis, more effort must be put into making services more available to those who need them, services that have declined over the last decade.



MEGHAN AND DIANA: THE MENTAL HEALTH OF ROYAL WIVES TW: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders.


n the 8th of March 2021, Oprah with Meghan and Harry aired on ITV in the UK. In this shocking interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the couple opened up about their reasons for leaving for the royal family. In the personal revelations which followed, it couldn’t help but bring to mind Princess Diana’s Panorama interview in 1995. The overwhelming impression left by both women in this instance is clear: marrying into the royal family took a horrendous toll on their mental health. The parallels between Meghan and the late Princess Diana are unmistakable. Here we see two young women, completely unprepared for the realities of the job, left isolated, alone, overwhelmed by media attention (and media abuse), left with no support, and expected to get on with it. Princess Diana’s Panorama interview, aired on the 20th of November 1995, revealed that the Princess had suffered with post-natal depression following the birth of Prince William, which led to a perception within the family that she was ‘unstable’ and ‘mentally imbalanced’. The lack of support or basic compassion which followed made the situation worse, with the Princess self-harming her arms and legs, and suffering from bulimia for a number of years.

Meghan Markle also revealed the detrimental effect that the stress and isolation had on her mental health, stating that things were so bad during her pregnancy with Archie that she ‘didn’t want to be alive anymore’. Moreover, Meghan was denied any access to help or support because ‘it wouldn’t be good for the institution’. The intense scrutiny, pressure, invasiveness, loneliness, and lack of support all make sense. The media have been a parasitic and intrusive presence for a long time. We know this. Diana was literally chased to her death by paparazzi in 1997, aged just 36. Living in the age of social media now can only have made this worse. It is unsurprising that this would be detrimental to anyone’s mental health, especially with the added influence of racism in the case of Meghan Markle. Moreover, the Monarchy is an institution which is hard wired for self-preservation above all else. For the most part, the policy of the monarchy is silence, and waiting out crises until everyone moves on. They have to maintain this stoic façade of harmony – the fairy tale – because revealing anything less might threaten their very existence. We cannot forget that in the 21st century, monarchies are very much the exception. In the cases of both Diana and Meghan, it is unsurprising that they would be expected to just get on with it and discouraged from speaking out, let alone seeking help. The British press, the institution, and the royal family itself have failed both Diana and Meghan. When asked what the simple reason for the Sussexes leaving the royal family was, they replied that it was both to get away from the UK Press and due to the lack of support available to them. Their leaving was preventable and, ultimately, is a sign of history repeating itself. It is evident that being members of the royal family has taken its toll on these women who have married into it. This life has been detrimental to their mental health, while simultaneously failing to provide the adequate support to help them, and the British media should take equal blame for their harassment. And yet, over 20 years after the death of Diana, it begs the question, why haven’t they learned anything?





ental Health is something of high importance to students. They require lots of support during their university journeys and it’s important that the representatives they elect are able to guarantee effective services. However, has ‘Mental Health’ become just a buzzword to be littered amongst candidate manifestos? Is it an empty promise and purely a way of securing votes? It’s clear that mental health is not a priority of the UK Government. No party’s key points ever really alludes to any kind of additional support or service for the people of the country. Their main focus is always the economy. This is quite clearly different in student politics. The aim for student representatives isn’t to acquire more money for the union, but is actually to get more services and support for its people. Candidate manifestos focus on giving more pull for individual student needs, including societies, sports, and the all important mental health. However, so often it appears that mental health is included in manifestos just for the sake of it. It seems a right of passage to say something about it, even if it’s not relevant and sticks out like a very sore thumb. That’s not to say that it’s not important. Mental health support is needed to be accessible for everyone and in every aspect of their life, whether it’s with their education or the social side. But that doesn’t mean that it needs to be in every manifesto, as though leaving it out would brand you as a bad and uncaring candidate.

If you don’t care enough to have put actual thought into it and produce an effective plan, then how much will you actually care about the mental health of the people voting? Just claiming that you will ‘ensure effective care for mental health’ doesn’t actually mean anything in the long run. The point is usually fleshed out with synonyms, not really meaning very much. What is more difficult is seeing some candidates say they are advocates for mental health awareness and see them engage with bullying behaviours online - or having mental health be a new number one priority after seeing it splattered across their competitors’ campaigns. There’s a sense of fakeness and a chase for student votes, when sometimes it’s more important to follow your own beliefs. Of course, this is mostly a grand generalisation. Our student’s union has roles that are geared towards mental healthcare with the position of Vice President Welfare and Community, so often you will see mental health mentioned within their manifestos. Effective candidates always describe their plan and goals exactly, and this is usually the case for people going for these positions. Mental health is a key part of their role, so not including it in their points would be a bit of a miss. But often you will see candidates including it at the bottom, one sentence long, without really much thought and depth to what they are saying. So is mental health just a buzzword? I would say mostly. Until services are effective and the sincerity of candidates aren’t pulled into question, then mental health will remain as a way for drawing in the dreams of student voters.

The problem is the insincerity.





WHY WE GET MENTAL HEALTH WRONG WORDS BY SAM PEARSON IMAGE BY FRANCES ROSE Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


r Alex George is many things: A&E Doctor, former Love Island contestant, influencer, the list goes on. He has now added the title of government mental health ambassador to this list. But what he is not is a solution to mental healthcare. As a society, we spend an increasing amount of time raising awareness about mental health issues. However, what’s missing is a policy response, which is a shame considering that a policy response to societal problems is what we expect of government. Hiring and promoting influencers to highlight a particular topic is not a substitute for material efforts to resolve it. Before I continue, I want to be clear about a couple of things. Awareness of mental health is undoubtedly important, and tackling stigma around this issue, particularly among men, is definitely something that we should embrace. But it’s only part of the solution, and not looking any further can be damaging. Let’s start with the appointment of our friend Dr Alex. There is no doubt in my mind that he deserves some kind of recognition, as he clearly cares deeply about mental health and has done a lot of work advocating for young people’s mental health, which I’m sure we can all get behind. Add into the mix his concurrent work on an NHS A&E ward during the pandemic, and he’s clearly an excellent role model. But the BBC article reporting his appointment didn’t mention any new funding for his cause, or for mental health provision in general. Neither, for that matter, did the government announcement. So, in the final analysis, what we have is a lot of positive noise - definitely the right kind of noise, but still just noise.


But what is to be done? Surely this is still an improvement, so criticising it is hardly helpful, is it? Well, it might be an improvement, but it falls short of making a material difference to those who need help the most. How do I know this? Well, to start off with, we have a dual crisis in mental healthcare provision in this country. In 2018, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) published a report identifying a £105 million decrease in funding for mental health services in real terms since 2011-2012. The chancellor recently announced $500 million in funding for mental health services, but it is much harder to grow an organisation than to let it wither on the vine. This is evident from the second problem. Staffing is an ongoing crisis in the NHS, with the central policy programme of the past decade leaving it poorly equipped for a tide of new cases which began to rise even before the pandemic and the consequential lockdowns. These measures were and remain necessary at the time of writing, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but they come with a cost to qualityof-life for the community. Between 2013 and 2018, the patient to doctor ratio in mental healthcare services has risen 36%, while the ratio of patients to nurses rose 34%. An injection of funding may well stabilise this deteriorating situation, but it will take time to build up numbers of trained and experienced staff. Moreover, it’s not clear how long government largesse will last, what with major economic troubles beginning to bite. In short, it is all very well and good to talk about raising awareness, but there remains a lack of sustained planning for mental health provision in the UK which desperately needs to be amended.






Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


think that sometimes when people think about having a cat they envision an aloof fluffy overlord who ignores you. But for me and my six therapy cats, it’s different. My cats and I are a family. Yes, that sounds like the most clichéd sentence ever but it’s true. I didn’t get a cat just for the sake of getting a cat. Instead, I waited to find the right cats. I waited to find the ones who would choose me, rather than the other way around. I waited to find the ones who would need me as much as I needed them. I’m a survivor of abuse and trauma. I know what it’s like to feel voiceless and afraid. I know what it’s like to be neglected, used, and thrown away. I gave my heart to the cats who know what that feels like too. My cats bring order and purpose to my day. They remind me that I’m responsible for someone other than myself and that I have a commitment to create a happy life for them. So, their presence in my life keeps me grounded. And when I didn’t have the motivation to get better for myself, to prioritise my own mental health and wellbeing, I made the effort because of them. My cats motivated me to abandon my negative coping mechanisms and replace them with positive ones. They showed me that recovery can be scary, but it’s worth it if you’re not alone. They showed me how to laugh without being self-conscious, 18

how to create moments of joy every day, and how to find hope in dreams of a happy, healthy future with the ones I love. My cats also taught me to cherish consent and self-respect. Because that’s the thing about cats—they’re not as aloof as people think. Actually, they’re just protective of their energy and they are excellent judges of character. So, when a cat does give you their heart, when they are free with their affection, it’s because you earned their genuine trust and respect. Unlike people, cats have complete emotional honesty, and that’s how I learned to be more like my cats. I learned to set and respect my own boundaries instead of chasing a relationship with someone who treated me like I was nothing. I learned to pursue healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with those who love and value me. Today, the seven of us are thriving. We love each other and we love life because we truly are a family. That doesn’t mean that our lives will be perfect, but it does mean that we will never face life’s challenges alone. I will never again wake up and feel paralysed by silence and solitude. My cats will never again feel unwanted or unloved. Together, we can make life better for each other and that makes all the difference in the world.




It’s not just a personal quirk which makes me and my friends enjoy hugging so much. Scientific research has concluded that hugging and similar physical contact can lower blood pressure, mitigate pain and reduce anxiety. On top of this, hugging is one of the actions which prompts the release of oxytocin into the body. The chemical, sometimes referred to as the ‘cuddle hormone’, is associated with increasing happiness and reducing stress. Hugging makes you happier. Don’t take my word for it—trust science. Of course, hugging isn’t for everyone, and physical contact like hugs can be very uncomfortable for neurodivergent people, those suffering from trauma or people who just aren’t a fan, but for me they’re one of the most effective ways to instantly pick me up when I might be struggling with my mental health. They would’ve been particularly useful both this and last year.

Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


am a hugger. If I had it my way, all greetings would be hugs and formality would just be dictated by how long you maintain them. Even if that dream were to be a reality, it’d be impossible with the state the world is in right now. For months and months, we’ve all either been stuck inside away from everyone or only seeing each other with some form of distancing between us. I’ve been sticking to the rules pretty strictly, so for the most part, this has meant lots of outdoor meetings with my friends with NO HUGS. I’ve spent hours nattering with my favourite people on park benches with NO HUG at the end, even after deep chats (when you undoubtedly need them most). Of course, I’m grateful to have been able to see people at all in this difficult time, but the lack of physical contact has made it so bittersweet. Especially after months apart, my first instinct is to give my best friends a big squeeze lasting several minutes and then hold their hand for at least half an hour. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not—that’s just us.


Virginia Satir, a family therapist, even once said: ‘We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.’ Considering I’ve been getting perhaps one hug a week from my parents during lockdown, I’ve been severely lacking. I feel hug-deficient. Most human beings are built to be touched—to feel comfort, solidarity, intimacy, the list is endless—which is why the pandemic has left a lot of us feeling a psychological phenomenon called skin hunger, often seen in prisoners after stints in solitary confinement. Our nervous systems themselves are hungry for the impulses sent to our brains by physical touch, without which we eventually deteriorate, physically and emotionally. I almost wish there were hug-pills, and when you wanted to feel comforted you could just pop one and get an instant shot of oxytocin and a brilliant smile on your face. But really, nothing could ever replicate the authentic feeling of someone’s arms around you, your energies in sync with a genuine emotional connection. I can only hope that by the time this is published, I’ll have my arms around the people I love most once again. Because, frankly, I’m getting desperate.



USING LOCKDOWN AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE MY MENTAL HEALTH TW: Suicidal Ideation. Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


e’re coming up on our one year anniversary of on-and-off lockdowns. There’s no denying that for some, lockdown has been incredibly detrimental to their mental health. I know that I myself have struggled a lot over these last few months with the combination of lockdown stress, homesickness after opting to quarantine in Southampton, and the effects of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). However, I also found that the first lockdown way back when gave me ample opportunity to work on my own mental health. I entered that first lockdown period already in a very dark moment of my life. I was struggling with suicidal thoughts, impostor syndrome, and was on the brink of dropping out of University. The break and complete distance that lockdown provided honestly kind of saved my life. I was forced to do nothing but evaluate myself and how I had arrived at that awful point and figure out how to break my way out of it. Moreover, the first lockdown seemed to have a lot of emphasis from the media on recognising and facing up to your own mental health. There were workshops advertised, Enabling started sending out tasks and activities you could do at home to keep yourself mentally active and avoid stagnancy, Solent Mind reached out via email stressing that they were there to talk if you needed. I was surrounded and constantly bombarded with things telling me to actively look after my own mental health. After a moment of complete rock bottom, my GP gently pushed me to tackle therapy and medication, because for the first time I felt like I actually had time to do it. I didn’t feel like I was ignoring my other responsibilities by looking after myself. I had never really put myself and my own


mental health first before. Instead, I pushed it to the side for the sake of other commitments like work, university and my social life. With the new time I had to spend alone, I began to really self-evaluate. How had I gotten to this point? What can I change in my own life to make things easier on myself? Sometimes it takes stepping out of the frame to see the bigger picture and isolated back home in with my family, I had an opportunity to look at my personal situation from an outside perspective. I could cut out people and habits that were toxic and made me unhappy, because I wasn’t constantly surrounded by things that reminded me of them. I stopped drinking, taking drugs, and focused on friendships and relationships that made me happy, rather than stressed or anxious. I branched out to things that I had previously been way too nervous to do, like writing for publications, and prioritising time just for me and my own hobbies without guilt attached. With the help of my therapist and family, I began to understand that it isn’t selfish to look after yourself—it’s necessary. I can say with the utmost confidence that I don’t think I’d still be here today without the time that lockdown has given me to grow out of the bad place. It’s undeniable that lockdown has definitely had its negative mental health moments too, but the time it gave me to really sit back and evaluate myself and my own issues is something that I am infinitely thankful for. I dread to think what would have happened if I didn’t get that chance to break away and just escape for a while.





Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.


have often labelled myself a workaholic without considering where this frame of mind originated, and why I feel so compelled to work until I’m blue in the face with little regard for my own mental and physical wellbeing. Productivity is a very dangerous concept, especially to those of us with mental health concerns. It implies that we must be (over)achieving all of the time to be content with who we are and what we stand for. It undermines the simple struggles that are often challenging when suffering from mental illness, fuelling self-hatred and frustration at why we cannot change who we are. With the rise of social media this has become worse as the snapshot of people’s lives that we consume easily leaves us feeling unaccomplished or less worthy in pretty much all aspects. It fuels comparison, which only leads to self-perpetuated hate for what is an otherwise perfectly amicable situation we find ourselves in. It is a tool that we all use to some extent in our free times, during late-night insomniac scrolling sessions, and even during lectures due to the pandemic. We cannot escape the thing, and so our attitude towards it needs to be adapted for changes to occur. I personally have a very damaging relationship with productivity and where the line needs to be drawn between work and play, which goes beyond the use of technology


and into the workings of everyday reality. During my time in education, I have battled with how much time spent working is enough for me to feel productive and content with the work I produce. I often catch myself getting tense and defeated at the prospect of having to take an hour or two for myself to prevent burnout. However, this is more of a problem of societal perception towards the concept of productivity, especially when it comes to mental health. In the workplace if someone takes on too much work to fuel their high-functioning anxiety that is praised, and the worker is rewarded for their hardworking attitude, but if someone takes a step back from their job to nurse mental illness they are perceived as lazy and work-shy. The reality is that the worker that seemingly puts in more effort is perhaps fuelling their anxieties whereas the worker that is negatively viewed is perhaps fighting against the productive label and doing what is right for their needs. We need to start looking deeper beneath the surface at the root of the problem for things to really change. We all react differently and adapt our physical being to our mental being according to what we as individuals see fit for our own situation, and the pressured trend for productivity needs to be amended for this stigmatised view to end. No matter how you choose to work, do not undermine your successes at the hands of a society convincing you that productivity needs to be carried out. Physically do for your mental health what your mind cannot do alone—take breaks and be patient with yourself—and all other success will fall into place naturally.



A P ILGR IMAGE OF SELF-R EFLECTION: ENLIG HTENMENT IN THE FOOTHILLS OF GERMANY and the same again in Berlin. We became experts in the railway and fields. And while there were always objectives on our minds (as one of our investigations was about food and I dream like a chef ), there were 10 hours a day of walking and much more at night. A time that started as jokes and light conversations, and ended with discussing some of our most intimate fears. Having two weeks away from literally everything at age 16 was a blessing. It gave everybody time to think and, as we had all just finished Year 11, we had lots of preparation together before Sixth Form and beyond. Essentially, it was the end of our childhood and this is something we talked about a lot. I remember discussing the gender and sexuality spectrums back when things were difficult to comprehend, as well as other people’s mental health journeys and disabilities. I learnt a lot about the people I was with and, thanks to my contributions to discussions, I learnt a lot about myself as well.



s a teenager, I was lucky enough to go on a 17 day trek across Germany. It was probably the best trip I have ever been on and will be incredibly difficult to top. As well as being generally very fun, it was a much needed trip to improve my wellbeing and left many of us with a deeper knowledge of ourselves and the world. I am a huge advocate for the Scouts Association. If you are lucky enough, you will have a good group nearby where you are growing up (they’re not all great I must admit). You’ll be even luckier if you have an Explorers section, aimed at 14 to 18 year olds. I think we were some of the luckiest, as not only did we have a section, but it was awesome. Our main leader Jim, ex-firefighter and a wellqualified legend, was one of the few leaders who were able to take his own group on the Explorer Belt expedition. This was essentially a bunch of work that resulted in a fortnight of trekking in a foreign country of our choice, with 10 cultural investigations a must.

That trip was also at a very strange time for me. My grandad had just passed away and his funeral was due to take place while I was gone. Two days later, it was my 17th birthday. My friends and I drank a shot of Jägermeister in a field and talked about death. I blew on a lighter stuck into a swiss roll and we talked about life. We met some amazing people, including a group of elderly ladies from a small village in East Germany who offered us cake and coffee when we passed their station during a youth cycle race and became more confident. I gained skills that I definitely didn’t have before and had so many new stories to tell. It was a shame once it was over, but I always look back at the time with fondness. While we definitely aren’t all friends anymore and most have gone in completely different directions, I can’t thank them enough for sharing those moments with me. Germany was mesmerising! The landscape was stunning and the walks were lovely and flat. But it wasn’t just the cultural education that I am so grateful for.

There were too many people wanting to go on this trip so we had to go in two groups, somewhat mirroring each other travelling from Hanover to Berlin. We camped exclusively until we stopped in Magdeburg for two nights 22






t was in 2018 that I was blessed with the sight of South Africa, its shimmering mirage of yellow and orange receding towards the horizon. The savannah, emanating a purity not yet spoiled by human innovation gave me a feeling of blissful freedom; the obligations and anxieties of society cut away like ivy, only to reinfect the mind the moment the jet engines ceased to sputter, an announcement that we had returned to reality and could no longer retreat into the vast voids of our imagination. Before the pandemic, travelling represented freedom – a brief moment in our lives to soar higher than the tower of Babel, swim as far as the ocean could carry, and experience the other worldly cultures of nations different from our own. Travel lets us explore the unknown and venture forth into new worlds with an innocence misplaced since the passing of our youth. In South Africa, I witnessed Mother Nature’s utopia filling the vast expanse of space that lay before me. Gazelles glided across an open plain whilst elephants fulfilled their higher purpose - remoulding and reshaping the landscape, the earth itself their canvas. I grew envious, gazing out over a nation that possessed a beauty I could only dream of witnessing at home. Here stood skyscrapers, there I stood in the shadows of trees so large and so green I could only imagine the stories they could tell. The sun shining through their leaves so as to paint a picture, dissolving at a moment’s notice as the day began to darken and the air began to freeze. In our time of internal reflection that this pandemic has granted us, internal activities take on a pronounced meaning as our movements slow, and our minds quicken. The melodic chords of music fall in rhythmic synchronicity with the yearnings of the heart, the words and actions of the imaginary places transport us to begin to represent our desperate desires for recognition in a time


marked with pronounced loneliness and unnerving contemplation. It is during these times, held hostage to the inner sanctum of our minds, that we are forced to come to terms with who we truly are, as living beings - finding a newfound sense of empathy and concern for our fellow traveller. Whilst a lack of travel has damaged the minds of many, it has also forced us to stop running from the demons that haunt our existence. In a time of loneliness, we find ourselves presented with the fact we are not alone journeying down a road many have travelled, many are yet to travel, and many are travelling now. Whilst the act of physical adventure has ceased to exist in an event earmarked for the annals of history, it has forced us to undertake a different form of adventure. Not one between continents, but states of mind. As we sit alone at our desks, comprehending the vast equations of science or untangling the myth and truth of history, we gaze out of our windows to appreciate those facets of life so often taken for granted. Each morning the sun rises and the birds sing while flowers die in the autumn to flourish once more in the spring. In a world of unnerving uncertainty, there also exists a continuity and peace that this isolation has forced us to turn to – establishing a certain understanding of the vast paroxysmal reveries that occupy the human mind. Looking around us, we obtain the revelation that the beauty we sought was standing right in front of us. We can admire the works of nature in Britain as we do abroad. We can admire the works of our ancestors as a legacy of one generation standing tall for all those that have followed. Within Britain, we can see the handwriting of the figures who came before us etched into the monuments and towers that once dominated a historic skyline. We can see their triumphs and failures, their wishes and desires, the purposes they believed they were placed on this earth to fulfil. It is through the comprehension of all this beauty, that we can also begin to face our own battles. We are simply next in a long line of


WORDS BY MORGAN FARMER IMAGE BY FREEPIK.COM human development to experience the existential questioning we have come to face. Whilst the questions of our soul are frightening, and we so often fear it is a battle we are losing, it does not mean it is a battle we cannot win. From pain has thrived the greatest success, and from questioning has developed the pinnacles of human accomplishment. I think this is what the pandemic has granted us, an ability to see the things that so often remain unseen. And it is through the sum of all these parts that this generation begins to adopt a new appreciation of the emotions so often stigmatised in the digital ink of the WESSEX SCENE

web. The beauty in front of us is now no longer an illusion, the sufferings of the soul no longer ignored. Perhaps when we finally meet that strange man of the dark, come to confirm the mortality of our existence, our final moments will be spent looking back on this time, marking it as the crossroads where happiness and clarity finally prevailed, permitting us to shine a new torch on the possibilities of life. The moment where we untangled the tribulations of our self-discovery.




or many avid travellers, May 17th marks the beginning of freedom, the first steps taken along a roadmap towards the normality of pre-COVID life. Before the pandemic, travelling abroad was something exciting with holidays coming in different shapes, sizes, cultures and climates. Perhaps you preferred a tranquil holiday on a beach, perhaps you were an adventurous solo traveller or maybe you were fond of exploring an entire city at the weekend. I am already discussing holiday plans with friends, and I can’t wait to break free from the shackles of lockdown and jump on a plane to any corner of the globe. It is a taste of freedom after a year of confinement, and I imagine freedom tastes like a Piña Colada along the shores of Spain. When I imagine my future travels abroad, I envisage stepping off a plane into uncharted territory. I imagine a buzz of excitement in the air, ready to explore those lands as of yet left unconquered. However, is this vision of carefree travel just a figment of our imagination? Will we be able to relax when travelling abroad, or is the harsh reality a prevailing sense of anxiety and social distancing. The bitter truth is that travelling abroad may not be as carefree as before. As I contemplate the future of travel, I feel an ominous cloud infecting my romanticised dreams of adventure. We may need to re-envisage what travelling may look like in a post-COVID age and whether catching planes will actually trigger our fight or flight response. The pandemic has already brought about many changes to our lifestyle, forced us to collectively adapt to the new


normal—weekly Zoom calls, a growing TikTok addiction, and a newfound love for banana bread. I struggled to adapt to this new lifestyle at first, and I constantly reminisced of the fun times at university. Going from a crazy university lifestyle to living with my family again was a huge shock to the system. However, I adjusted to the new normal and even had some enjoyable moments: making quizzes with friends, rediscovering my love for cooking, challenging myself with exercise and reconnecting with those I had grown distant from. It was certainly a bittersweet period of my life. The easing of lockdown rules means adapting to a new normal once again. We are venturing into the unknown once more, swapping self-isolation for a heartfelt conversation with strangers. The idea of being sat on a crowded plane is a daunting thought for some. The anxieties surrounding post-COVID life is shared by many, as a recent UK survey by the Office for National statistics found almost half of the population have reported high levels of anxiety about life after lockdown. It raises the question: will we feel anxious about travel once the pandemic has subsided? Hand sanitiser and masks will certainly be the focus of our holiday essentials. Will the prospect of catching the virus always be in the back of our minds? There is a degree of ambiguity about travelling abroad and it can be scary to jump into the unknown. If we have learned one thing from this past year, it is that we are able to adapt to new and scary situations, demonstrating a profound ability to persevere through hardship.


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f the latest COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world anything, it’s that scientists will be in high demand from now on. This is not only reflective of the need for innovation in Health Sciences but also for specialists that can tackle challenges such as climate change. However, as the globe requests more help from STEM experts, the same people are facing a mental health crisis as never seen before. According to the reports published by UC Berkeley and the University of Arizona in 2014 and 2015, over 50% of the interviewed have an unhealthy worklife balance. The data collected by both institutions emphasised how little is done to encourage students 28

to take a step back from their studies and focus on their personal lives. Although this may not seem something universities have to do, it is important to realise that mental health issues have a dramatic impact on people’s livelihood and can affect their academic productivity. Jeff Clements, a postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, states that the pressure to succeed in his research caused him to feel extremely anxious. In his article published by Nature, Clemens goes on by saying that one of the factors most affecting his mental health is being able to reproduce his experiments times and times again. From a non-STEM perspective, this MENTAL HEALTH

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES might not be a pressing issue, but any STEM student will tell you they were worried at least once in their academic life about gathering perfect results in the lab. At some point, it becomes more about proving a point—proving you can make it—than working on your abilities enough to reach that perfection.

Once a scientific paper is published by a team of scientists, others will try to reproduce the experiments. However, estimates from Nature show that between 50 and 90% of scientists have tried to reproduce someone else’s experiment and failed. In terms of discoveries, this could either mean the findings were false, which could happen but is unlikely, or some other factors are contributing to the difficulties in reproducing experiments. Nature answers this dilemma by estimating that above 60% of the interviewed think the pressure to publish plays an important role in the reproducibility crisis. Another issue STEM students and professionals face is the competitive work environment. According to the US Census Bureau, only 1.2% of the population has a PhD, meaning most students do not carry on studying after their master’s programmes. It is difficult to get into a PhD and even more so to keep focus and graduate. Of those earning a PhD and working in STEM, women account for only a third. Although this could open a bigger debate, it underlines why people are always struggling to be on top. It is this struggle that causes scientists to suffer from mental health issues. Lastly, STEM students and workers are sometimes affected by strict regulations because of the hazards of the workplace. Labs can be dangerous environments. Scientists face machines, reactants and biological hazards that require following firm rules and being focused throughout the time spent in the lab. Although many other jobs have to deal with even riskier situations, the dangers of STEM jobs combined with the other factors mentioned previously increase the pressure put on the body and mind of scientists. It is not a coincidence that STEM WESSEX SCENE

students are given the same ‘Safety in the Lab’ talk every year during the first week at university. But how does this translate to numbers? According to UC Berkeley, around 30% for men and 40% for women develop anxiety, while this datum climbs to 55% for a gender non-conforming interviewee. The figures are similar regarding depression, where gender non-conforming people again face the biggest struggles. What is even more alarming is that 50% of the whole cohort feels they were not given enough support from personal academic tutors and advisors, who should have cared for their mentees. Although this article focused on what can cause mental health issues, it is also important to propose solutions. The first step towards a more caring STEM environment is to enhance the resources allocated to mental health support. Backing students throughout university is the gateway to ensure a healthier workforce in the future. Secondly, a cultural change needs to happen, so that women and gender nonconforming people have better opportunities at acceding to STEM careers, and at being offered mental health advice when required. Lastly, there is the need to remove the stigma from those seeking mental help, so that people struggling with any kind of mental health issue can feel welcomed by the community. If we want scientists to help through global crises, we need to boost the resources allocated towards improving their mental health.






port and exercise in general are known to boost your mood. But, despite liking sport, I have struggled to keep up an exercise regime during the lockdowns. This has impacted my mental health and my perception of my body image. I realised the reason for this was because I didn’t have the social contact that a team sport gives me. Although I had the time to exercise, I didn’t want to because it was not the type of activity I enjoyed. I’ve participated in team sports since I was young, mainly because of PE lessons and then the sports clubs I joined. I loved playing netball in secondary school and then when I came to university, I started playing korfball. These sports are similar in the way they are played, but for me the biggest (and most important) similarity is that they are team sports. Team sports were beneficial to my mental health and wellbeing for various reasons: 1.

Socialising. Within a team, you make friends with the other members and training sessions then become an opportunity to socialise as well as to practise for competitions or events. A training session doesn’t feel like just a workout; it’s a catch-up, a social experience.


Common goals. If you are part of a team that plays in matches, leagues or tournaments, you have a group around you who all want to succeed and you can all work together to achieve this. Other people may not understand why the competition is so important to you, but your teammates will.


Learning from others. Having the opportunity to train with others means you can help each other out in different aspects of the game. You may be better at one part of gameplay and someone else might be able to perform another skill better than you, but because you are on the same team, you will want to share your knowledge and help each other out.

These interactive aspects I greatly missed and continue to miss, whilst we continue not to be able to practise organised sport. This has made balancing my time quite difficult, as I just work all day and have nothing physical to break up the monotony of sitting in front of a computer. Training sessions gave a great opportunity to run off any stress or pent up energy, and to clear your head for a while by focusing on the sport. This was hugely beneficial to my own mental health, as I wasn’t overthinking or stressing all the time, as I had these times to distract myself, do something I loved and talk with my friends. I truly miss my training sessions, matches and competitions with korfball, so much so that when the roadmap for the end of lockdown was announced, I was more focused on when I could next play with my team rather than when I could go to a nightclub. The hope that soon we can resume activity is keeping me going and giving me something to look forward to. Korfball has been a key part of my university experience and not being able to play for so long has been very hard. I can’t wait to get back to my favourite sport, whilst simultaneously improving my mental health and wellbeing.






hen I walked around the Freshers Fair, a tall student stopped me and said, ‘have you thought about rowing?’ My first thought was, are you joking? Despite a significant lack of sporting knowledge, I knew that rowers needed to be tall and broad, two things of which I was neither. However in an effort to make a good first impression, I simply replied, ‘No, I think you’ve got the wrong girl.’ He then went on to tell me about coxing, which is what he had in mind all along. A cox is very short person who sits at either the front or the back of a rowing boat. They help the rowers to keep in time, lead drills and steer the boat. Oh, and they shout. Coxes are glorified human microphones. So, I joined the rowing team. I was coxing the novice men’s and women’s squads and we were having a good season… until the regattas began. You see, coxes tend to be very short because the smaller you are, the less dead weight there is for the crew to have to move. In winter, we tend to layer up to stay warm during early morning sessions and some coxes even bring hot water bottles in the boat with them. During training this isn’t an issue—in the winter it is to be expected. However as summer approaches, how much you weigh becomes important. During regatta season, coxes are required to stand on the scales before every race. This is to ensure smaller people are not getting an advantage, in which case, they must bring a weight with them in the boat. For me, that was never an issue. Coxes can never weigh too much, technically, however the minimum weight for female coxes is 50kg. That’s nothing, really. On a weekly basis, coxes are


reminded of the number on the scales, constantly striving to be as close to that 50 as possible. This is encouraged by the crew members (who aren’t subject to the same scrutiny) and the coach, making you feel like you are letting people down for every extra kilo you weigh—that is not okay. I found it too difficult. Constantly being reminded of how much I weighed and feeling like the number was letting people down made me feel uncomfortable. I am usually someone whose weight fluctuates anyway, but when this was open to judgment from other people, it became a problem. I wasn’t happy with my weight being other people’s business and I needed out before things took a toll in a more drastic way, such as developing a disorder. Body positivity is important in society today, however when this becomes a way of celebrating things that are unhealthy, it is wrong. If I were to weigh 50kg, I would be too skinny and very unhealthy. This may not be the case for someone else, but if we are all held to the same standard, then we are constantly being reminded we are not good enough or that we should be doing more to lose weight. Personally, I want to prioritise my work, friends and mental health. Coxing didn’t work out for me because all it did was make me feel like the unwanted, deadweight girl and no one should feel that way. All bodies are beautiful and numbers are an arbitrary measure which shouldn’t define you. I’m still working to accept my body, but weighing in and feeling the pressure of whatever number turned up was too much, and I got away. It didn’t work for me, or my mental health, and that’s what is important.





t has for centuries been thought that night terrors have some sort of meaning, from preparing you for horrifying events that may happen in the future or some other mystical meaning suggesting dreams may know more about your life than you. However, after a huge advancement in technology, stolen straight from Hank Pym, Wayne Szalinski and with some reverse engineering of Mario’s mushrooms, we have finally been able to get into our minds and find the true cause of these nightmares. Strangely it is nothing quite like any of us could have imagined. It turns out that these night terrors are caused by an anatomy-wide anti-effort movement named IFG, or Insomnia for Good. After a lengthy interviewing process with the IFG we have determined their goals and discussed their rather curious strategy to achieve them. They have asked us very kindly to lay them out here and assure us all that their intentions are purely for good, even if it sometimes appears otherwise. It would seem that all the IFG wish to achieve is for our work hours to reduce from a regular 9-5 day to a much more manageable 1-3 day, though they have stated 1-4 would be accepted but they ‘will not settle for so much as a minute longer.’ The argument certainly has a lot going for it, I know I, for one, would love to stay in bed until 12:30pm and finish at 3 and I’m sure many of you feel the same way. The question, of course, is how this movement is attempting to achieve their goals and the solutions they have come up with are quite dubious.

The IFG have taken to overriding our own pleasant dreams of daises or colourful days on the beach and such and mutilating them to create something far more grotesque, with the aim of the person waking up and being too tired to go to work the next day. Often a dream containing anything from a childhood phobia to a full blown murder scene or a ghost in your bedroom is the result of the IFG’s interference. Yes this does indeed mean that every nightmare you had of going into work having forgotten all of your clothes was in fact simply the IFG trying to stop you from going in in the first place. The IFG have, however, stated that any nightmares containing clowns have nothing to do with them and are an entirely different movement with the aim to eradicate clowns from existence. The IFG have made it very clear to us that they are in no way involved and do not condone these extremists’ actions. It turns out that the IFG have been breaking into our dreams for thousands of years but have had little to no luck. This is why they were delighted to see us when we arrived as we could finally get the word out to you all that all those bad dreams you may be having are for a good cause, their cause. They merely needed a platform to tell you, so we at Wessex Scene were happy to give them their much needed voice. The message from the IFG is clear, these night terrors are for your own good. Maybe you should listen to them every now and then and take a day off as the IFG have been making it quite apparent to us all for centuries that each of us could do with working less.






re you looking for new ways to annoy your friends? Do you enjoy being that housemate? If you’re concerned that you’re not being annoying enough, here are some great phrases that are guaranteed to drive your friends away! •

‘I’m really OCD about my kitchen cupboard!’

This is a great way to let others know that you’re not interested in being kind or thoughtful about the language you choose. So, if you’re worried that you don’t sound insensitive enough, this casual misrepresentation of a very painful mental health disorder will make the point you’re going for. For added effect, show off your nicely organised cupboard while you say this and stand around waiting like you expect to receive a medal for your organisational skills. •

‘I tried to want to clean the bathroom.’

If you haven’t cleaned the shared bathroom since the day you moved in, this should help explain the issue to your housemates. Everyone else must clean the bathroom because they really love doing it - especially your housemates who are quietly struggling with mental illness and loads of stress and you’ve tried to enjoy it as much as they do. But somehow, cleaning the bathroom just doesn’t sound like boatloads of fun! To be honest, you don’t really fancy cleaning soggy hair out of a shower drain. So, if your housemates are on your case because you haven’t cleaned the bathroom in a year, just explain that you tried to want to, but it just doesn’t sound fun to you. They’ll totally understand.

‘Could you move your box of tea? I just really need all three cupboard shelves.’

Are you looking for a way to establish dominance over your housemates? Are you trying to explain that your groceries take top priority in the house? To really make your point, ask your housemate to move her one little box of tea -- the only thing she has for herself in this godforsaken kitchen -- and let you claim all three cupboard shelves as your own. I’m sure she’ll understand how terribly inconvenient it is to have her tea there when you’ve already claimed the entire cupboard and 95% of the fridge. •

‘I left the heating on 24/7 last month, hope you all don’t mind paying extra!’

Because who can remember to just turn the heat off? Sure, your housemates manage to do it on a regular basis, but after you were a tiny bit chilly on one particular night, you just couldn’t be bothered to switch the heat off again. So, if you’re looking for a way to explain your skyrocketing heating bill to your housemates, the above explanation is a crowd favourite among housemates everywhere, and guaranteed to make them hate your guts! So, if you want to let the world know that you have the bank of mum and dad paying your bills and you really can’t be arsed to be considerate of anyone else, this is the explanation to go with. WESSEX SCENE










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