Nov. 7, 2019, 9:50 p.m.

You are never alone

Over the last 2 weeks, a big white wall (well, 4 walls to be exact) has stood in the open space on the main campus at the University of Manchester. It seemed almost menacing at first; a familiar sight for students, like staring at a blank sheet of paper when trying to start a daunting essay. Gradually, more and more students could be seen grabbing one of the coloured markers and taking time out of their day to scribble away or draw uplifting messages of positivity and kindness for anyone struggling. Before long, it became a magnificent masterpiece, canvases overflowing with colour and creativity, a beacon of light shining on the upbeat spirit of Manchester students amidst the darkness (and the seemingly torrential rain here).

The Big White Wall marks the launch of Let’s Talk, the student mental wellbeing campaign that gets students talking about the way they feel, as comfortably as they would feel 'talking about last night's football match or the latest Netflix series'. It also coincides with the start of the university's partnership with a virtual Big White Wall, a free, 24/7 online mental health resource for all staff and students, which is monitored by trained counsellors. It provides an anonymous space where participants can express their thoughts or feelings and includes self-guided courses, personal assessments and peer to peer support for those living with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions – and for those interested in exploring resources to support their wellbeing.

It will initially be available for a 12-month trial period, which I would love to see rolled out permanently at the end as it seems like a fantastic initiative. Sadly, the physical Big White Wall outside the 'tin can' building has been taken down now, which is a shame. I think having a space like that for people to spread messages of love and encouragement in a world of conflict and pressure can be a great source of comfort. Spending even just a few moments reading and contemplating some of the messages instantly brightened up my day and served as a reminder that none of us are truly alone. As Dumbledore once said, "Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."

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