‘Bro, there is something we must discuss’: The conception of the Conscious ball

Will Bennett 14 October 2017

‘Bro, there is something we must discuss’, was the line that kick-started planning for Conscious: The Oxbridge mental health charity ball.  Midway through revision season the idea for the ball came to founders Dil and Kam and the dramatic one liner soon ‘turned out to be good news’. 

Held in conjunction with Oxford, the ball will be at a secret location, equidistant between the two universities.  All I could squeeze out of the committee was that it is a ‘very cool space’ and ‘different to your standard May ball’.  Transport has been organised in both directions which is included in a ticket price of just £75.  All food will be ‘ethically sourced’ and the committee is even on the hunt for ‘non-powered sources of entertainment’.  Tickets go on sale at 5pm on Saturday.

The purpose of the ball is a combination of fundraising and raising awareness of mental health at Oxbridge.  70% of funds generated by the ball will go to Mind and Rethink.  Keir filled me in on some of the things that Cambridge has been getting disastrously wrong.  That ‘colleges are all allowed to be different’ is his most pressing concern, in that each has its own policies regarding intermission and counselling.  At some you are not allowed to be on site while intermitting and employment over the year often still has to be cleared with the university, stranding lots of students with little or no income.  Of course people intermit for all sorts of different reasons and Keir pushed the point that ‘week five blues are not the only way people develop mental health problems’.  Many more people find themselves with one thing ‘out of whack’, quickly discovering that work and other commitments are spiralling out of control.

Keir noted that Cambridge is improving and some people are now getting ‘counselling appointments within a week’, but the group’s consensus was that mental health here still has a long way to go.  It’s like ‘trying to push a ball up a hill and every time it might roll back down again’ was Keir’s choice of analogy.  He has campaigned to reduce the workload but the problem remains that the nature of the college system blocks change.  Keir told me that the vice-chancellor of education himself conceded that he has almost no power in this regard.  Clearly Cambridge’s mental health system can be improved and the money and awareness raised by Conscious looks like it will go a considerable way to doing so.

To find out more about Concious, and buy tickets to the ball, visit their website here