09/10/2012 07:27 BST | Updated 09/10/2012 07:49 BST

Glasgow University Changes Student 'Positivity Week' After Depression Sufferers Brand It 'Patronising'

Students are celebrating a small victory after applying pressure to their union to change the name of a mental health awareness week paid off.

Glasgow University's student representative council (GUSRC) recently announced it would be rebranding "health week", a period designated to raising awareness about mental health issues, to "positivity week".

An email, which relayed the information to students, claimed the aim of the week, which runs 12-16th November, was to concentrate on positivity.

GUSRC's email read:

"Freshers’ Week may be over but it’s not too long before the SRC’s next week long event: Positivity Week, 12th-16th November. The aim of this week is primarily to raise mental health awareness, specifically feeling positive and being positive towards others.

In response to the message, students took to the union's Facebook page to voice their complaints.

Glasgow student Sarah Jones wrote:

"I know I am not the only one who has a serious problem with the renaming of Health week to Positivity Week.

"I am really concerned that the name is dismissive and minimising of mental health amongst other things and am quite upset and angry that the SRC is putting forward such attitudes."

Debbie White asked whether the message was detrimental to the cause. "Obviously, whoever wrote that has never experienced mental illness.

"There's a lot more to mental health than that and I'd encourage whoever wrote that to perhaps revisit it; having a mental illness isn't a case of a failure to think positively, and phrasing it like this could well do more harm than good."

Another student, Bean Reoch, called the comments "patronising and trivialising".

"I'm on board with complaining about this," she wrote. "I find it highly patronising and feel that it trivialises the genuine struggles of those who do have to deal with MH problems esp during uni career when it can be even more alienating and challenging than in the outside world."

The scale of the opposition against the week was brought to light by Scottish Literature student Liam Hainey. Writing for student newspaper, the Glasgow Guardian, Hainey, who suffers from depression, said:

"Positivity and mental health issues have nothing to do with each other. Depression and adopting a cheery outlook on life are not interlinked. An upbeat attitude has never and will never cure any illness, even if it is one of the mind. These facts have simply not been grasped by those behind this new endeavour."

As a result of the complaints, the student representative council has now changed the title to "welfare week". Responding to Hainey's article, student support vice president Jess McGrellis penned her own, apologising for the offence caused.

"I am sorry for any offence caused by the choice of the name 'Positivity Week'. This was not our intention. The misunderstanding has been caused by a poorly-worded email sent out by us to all students."

McGrellis added the week aims to create an "inclusive event" for all students, including those who would not self-identify as having a mental-health problem.

"The objective is emphatically not to tell people to ‘smile and be cured’, or indeed to presume to ‘treat’ any kind of mental illness," she added. "Rather, we hoped to widen the scope of previous Health and Mental Health Awareness Weeks, and concentrate on the small things that people can do each day to feel more positive about themselves, their friends and fellow students, and their environment.

"I hope that you have not been offended by Mr Hainey’s sweeping statement that ‘positivity and mental health issues have nothing to do with each other’."

In the wake of the "positivity week" fiasco, we asked our Twitter followers:

And this is what they told us:

Positivity Week


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