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Helping students talk about mental health

362. Meredith Leston

Providing students with a platform to talk openly about their experiences with mental health.

Providing students with a platform to talk openly about their experiences.

Meredith, known as Merri, founded the initiative ‘Meeting of Minds’ which is designed to bring an academic spotlight to Mental Health, highlighting and disseminating the biological basis of mental health difficulties. Merri set up the initiative to host open conversation events about mental health, led by guest speakers both from professional and celebrity backgrounds who share their stories of their experiences of mental health.

To date eight events have been hosted, speaking to an audience of over 300 attendants. The influence of Merri’s work is undeniable with ‘Meeting of Minds’ advising government ministers (including Jeremy Hunt) on how to improve our understanding of mental health issues.

Merri’s work to improve the understanding of mental health issues does not end with ‘Meeting of Minds’. She also co-chairs the Oxford University society ‘Mind your Head’ which works to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. Merri recently organised a ‘Speak Easy’ for the group – an open-mic style night where any of the 200 attendees could speak about their experiences. More ‘Speak Easy’ talks, as well as a Christmas dinner for the heads of Oxford colleges to create a universal policy on student mental health and an alternative valentine’s day that focuses on self care are the next planned ventures for Merri.

Merri’s plans don’t end there. ‘Meeting of Minds’ is growing- this year it will be rolled out nationally to other universities, thanks to funding from The Tingewick Society. She hopes to create a TEDx-style website that will allow participating universities to film mental health talks and initiate online conversation around mental health issues.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“In ‘Meeting of Minds’ Meredith has created a vital platform for hundreds of students to talk about mental health, giving them an opportunity to talk openly about their experiences and support each other. She has shown incredible determination to break down the myths surrounding mental health, and seeing her positive work being adopted beyond her own university is a clear sign of the huge impact she is having on the lives of other students. I am delighted to recognise Meredith’s work with the UK’s 362nd Point of Light.”

Merri said:

‘I am absolutely thrilled to win this award. It affirms not only my work but the legitimacy of mental health advocacy itself. One voice has the power to make a change with perseverance, patience and passion.’

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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