Ed Pinkney is a public health campaigner and consultant with a particular interest in digital tools, peer-support and mental health in education. He is currently based at the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, Hong Kong University.
Ed is a graduate of the University of Leeds (Philosophy, 2010) and received a Masters in Public Health from the University of Hong Kong in 2015.
In 2010, he founded Mental Wealth UK (now Student Minds) - a national mental health charity that supports a network of student campaigners. After completing his studies, he spent a year travelling around the UK in a camper van, running mental health events and campaigns at universities and encouraging students to setup ‘mental wealth’ groups. He was director of Mental Wealth UK until 2012, and led NUS's mental health project in Northern Ireland during early 2013. During 2014 he worked for the digital mental health charity Mindfull, and has been based at the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention at Hong Kong University since 2015.
Ed comments and campaigns on issues involving young people, education, and wellbeing, and has often been featured in the media as an authority on student mental health and suicide prevention. He received counselling training at the University of Leeds, and studied positive psychology at the University of East London. He is interested in eastern cultures and has travelled through much of Asia. In October 2012 he spent time living with nomads in Tibet, where he had a narrow miss with an angry yak.
Media producers and regulators need to take a considered approach to how they portray suicide in drama and film. Campaigners can learn from other public health debates such as the portrayal of cigarette smoking.
The manifestos of the three largest parties collectively contain 75 references to mental health -- 70 more than the respective manifestos in 2010, excluding the indexes. Those that have read the recently released manifestos could be forgiven for remembering little of what was said, because despite extended paragraphs, there are few quantifiable pledges.
The Conservative manifesto released last week refers to each of these areas, but, crucially, it only promises to recruit "up to" 10,000 mental health staff. A Conservative government could technically appoint just one more mental health professional over the next three years and still fulfil this pledge, something that would be disastrous for a country that has faced increasing pressure on mental health services.
Although it might seem intuitive that this prevents users from being exposed to troubling content, blocking content too liberally can just as easily push offensive content or conversations to the shadowy fringes of the internet where troubling behaviour can be normalised.
Instead of criticising the methods of those students stepping up to try and help their peers, we can admire their compassion, and respect their determination to plug a failing support system. And if civil liberties campaigners don't want this to deteriorate into censorship then they can join efforts to make sure that adequate support exists.
One of the memorable scenes of the Hunger Games trilogy - before its lacklustre final two-parter - sees Finnick facing the sharp end of Katniss' arrow, at which point he reminds the protagonist to "remember who the real enemy is". As academics and students criticise one another over free speech and insensitivity, this scene seems particularly apt.
What unites the thousands of voices championing mental health and wellbeing from all corners of society is a recognition that, while some of us may be more at risk, poor mental health can affect us all.. For the new Shadow Minister for Mental Health, the great test will be in whether these voices can be aligned with Labour social and economic policy
It's almost exactly five years since I graduated. When I look back, despite some excellent lectures, the university faces I remember most are not academics, but support staff. I'm sure that for a significant proportion of graduates it's the same. Support staff deserve their dues.
No one would be brazen enough to say that universities are ever going to be ideal environments for one's health. Few would be brazen enough to expect that. But if our hospitals are places to reduce poor health, is it too much of a stretch to suggest that our universities ought to be places that protect good health?
There is no biological reason for why economic depression should lead to clinical depression. It's entirely social and political. We're all affected, and we need more public figures to be talking about it.
While the prospect of more funding for mental health services is a good thing, it's no real victory if mental and physical services are not brought into unison. A health system that was in tune with medical science would have mental wellbeing at its core.
It's easy to say what matters most is happiness. It's easy to say we should put people's happiness first. It's easy to say that something is good because it makes the majority of people happy. What's not so easy is to talk about whether the happiness of some may be coming at a human cost.
It was the blog's lackadaisical attitude towards student wellbeing that got to me. The way it claims that higher education has "been shown" to benefit the 'health and well-being' of students, without providing a shred of evidence... But it's the misleading employment claims that show how far propagandists are prepared to go to sell university places.
Switching on the news last night, I heard a young graduate telling a reporter, "I've done everything that society told me to do, and I'm still not finding employment." As his words trailed off, the despair in his voice seemed to capture a generation that's feeling let down and unsure where to turn.
I realised that an awareness day isn't just about trying to squeeze a date into the diaries of those who would otherwise be uninterested. It's also about aggregating the resources of those who are already involved with a cause - to get stuff done.
One of the key struggles for mental health campaigners is to dissolve the 'them-us' divide between those with experience of mental ill-health and those without. Whenever I give a talk on mental health I try and emphasise that we are all in the same boat; that each of us has ups and downs, and each of us is vulnerable to periods of crisis if certain circumstances arise.
As support services are being squeezed by budget cuts, compassionate and dedicated support staff are working tirelessly to help students get through a challenging period. Increasingly, staff are also getting help from the students themselves.
13/12/2012 12:02 GMT
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