October 10, 2021


By 2020 Diana Award recipient, Shantanu Kundu

Shantanu founded the Be Free Campaign to reduce the stigma around mental health, promote wellbeing and improve mental health outcomes. The campaign has grown into a large team, comprising of students, doctors, and mental health professionals. As a student doctor himself, Shantanu delivers talks and workshops in schools, universities, and community centres around the Northwest and the Midlands, using his own experiences to inspire others. His charity also works with YouTubers and influencers to promote positive mental health and his volunteer ambassadors collectively have over 600,000 subscribers.

An incredibly difficult 18 months, filled with ups and downs. The devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would leave on mental health was unknown, and in reality, is still not known to this day. Whether it is the anxiety of seeing people again after 18 months, the impact of grief on one’s mental health, the worsening of one’s mental health condition or the realisation that you need to take steps to help your own mental health – over two-thirds of young people saw their mental health worsen due to the pandemic according to Mind. This is a monumental task that all of us as part of humanity need to work together for. How can we positively improve awareness of mental health and focus on three aspects of care that I have been working on through my medical and charitable career? Prevention, intervention and postvention.

When I started the Be Free Campaign, a mental health charity, there was a key aim I had in mind – impacting people’s perception of mental health but also giving tools for people to look after their mental health and the mental health of those around them. Working within an imperfect system has had a massive impact on my own wellbeing, and the knowledge that sometimes there is not a lot you can do with the resources you have can be daunting. There is a need for an increase in the number of mental health practitioners. 41% of mental health trusts have staffing levels below the recommended benchmark according to Mind. This is why I went on to launch a partnership with Edge Hill University to offer placements for students studying Masters and Bachelors in CAMHS or Counselling. Without the opportunity to be inspired and educated, people won’t have the same enthusiasm for mental health that I have been lucky to have. With the backing of Rt Hon. Boris Johnson, the charity I started has evolved and has become a propeller of change for future mental health professionals to come.

Shantanu Kundu met Rt Hon. Boris Johnson Prime Minister and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

I have had the opportunity this year to undergo an MSc in Acute, Critical and Emergency Medicine with an aim to research and improve mental health crisis care within the Emergency Department. Only one-third of people in crisis were seen within the 4 hours recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. This needs to change and working to improve mental health access within the NHS has been a rewarding part of my career so far.

My aim has always been to follow my “3-word-slogan” that seem to have been heavily adopted nowadays – Prevention, Intervention and Postvention. But, how can you use this to impact people and become movers and shakers within your own community?

Be Free Campaign team empowering change within the community promoting awareness of mental health.

1. Prevention
Look after your wellbeing and learn about mental health. You can start with my charity’s website or with a book I had the opportunity to write and publish within major booksellers.

2. Intervention
Learn about how you can help others. You can support the day and raise awareness by posting on social media, volunteering for a mental health charity, or even becoming a mental health practitioner – your impact matters. The more noise we can make, the more we can empower people and improve mental health. If you would like to follow my journey, then please follow my charity’s Instagram account – @campaignbefree – or you can contact us for volunteering opportunities.

3. Postvention
Look after people if they aren’t well or have struggled recently. See how you can be a positive influence by reading through the advice here. If it’s you who has gone through a hard time – go back to step one and carry on looking after yourself. Making sure that you get professional help whenever you need it. (Visit your GP, call 116 123, Text DA to 85258 or call 999 in emergencies)

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