In the morning of 4 April, Sirius board members Emma de Weger and Marije Tempelman cannot get in touch with fellow board member Jesper Benus. When Jesper’s roommate doesn’t know where he is either, an unpleasant feeling comes over the two students. They decide to call his parents, but they don’t know either. ‘Then his parents reported him missing. Not much later it turned out to be too late’, says De Weger. ‘We received the terrible message that Jesper had ended his life.’
‘It was totally unexpected for us’, says Tempelman. ‘Jesper was very open and social, and liked to be in good company. He was really the mood-setter on our board.’ This was also evident last December, when the board members of Sirius, following the example of radio station 3FM, organised ‘Sirius Request’, to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. ‘Jesper initiated the campaign and was very committed. He even had his head shaved for the good cause.’
But Covid prevented Sirius Request from taking place. In honour of their fellow board member Benus, the students want to organise the event still. This time with another good cause: making mental health discussable. ‘We often think: if only Jesper had said something. We have never been able to discuss it with him. The same goes for his housemate and parents. They are also very enthusiastic about our campaign. In the end, it’s all about raising awareness. There are many more students who struggle with mental problems and don’t talk about it. We hope to make it discussable and want to emphasize that there are many people you can reach out to.’
With the name ‘Look Out For Yourself’, the board members hope to raise as much money as possible for MIND, an organisation dedicated to mental health. ‘The idea of the campaign is comparable to Serious Request from 3FM. We will make a radio programme with a live stream and lock ourselves up as a board in our boardroom in the Technohal, the glass house of the UT.’ Other boards are also taking part in the campaign. ‘Members of the Stress study association, for example, will go bald for charity, just like Jesper, if there are enough donations. There is also a bingo and an aeroplane folding course.’
In addition, there are more serious themes planned. Rector Tom Veldkamp drops by for a talk about mental health among students. ‘We want to make this as big as possible,’ says De Weger. ‘We hope to raise 5000 euro with this campaign. But ultimately we hope that students are no longer afraid to talk about their mental problems. Because if you talk about it, it is already improving.’
You can talk about suicidal thoughts anonymously via the chat at www.113.nl or call 113 (usual telephone charges) or 0800-0113 (free of charge).