My name is Odette Anne Yende, and I am the current BAME students' representative at UCLan. During the summer of 2020, triggered by the Black Lives Matter movement, I wrote an open letter to the University about the lack of representation in the University’s student counsellor team. I realised that we needed a Black student counsellor now more than ever. Especially during a time when seeing the constant unlawful murders of Black people would no doubt have a negative impact on the mental health of Black students.
This letter received a positive response both from the University and outside. It led to a meeting with the University’s Education Vice-Chancellor, the Director of Student Services, our then Students’ Union President and our VP Education Steph Lomas. It was a productive meeting which resulted in the unanimous decision that hiring a Black student counsellor would largely benefit the students at UCLan.
From then on, I worked closely with the Director of Student Services and Louise Noblett – a member of the Student Services wellbeing team to ensure that we found the perfect candidate for the role. By September the vacancy had been advertised, and in November I sat on the interview panel, where we eventually hired our first biracial Black counsellor. It is an amazing feeling to know that what I campaigned for has been accomplished, and I feel like we recruited the right person for the role. Hopefully, this will help more Black students to seek help, knowing that they will have a counsellor who can understand the racial aspects of what affects their mental health.
Following on from that success, I am now working with the student wellbeing team on a campaign that will hopefully destigmatise the subject of mental health in the Black and Asian community and have more ethnic minority students seeking help if required. What is important to acknowledge is that all our mental health matters and that for students, ‘talking matters’ too.