Emma Purser is a Senior Sophister World Religions and Theology student from Stradbally, Co. Laois. She is an S2S peer supporter, a current member of the SU Lobby Group and Liaison Officer for QSoc. She has been an SU Class Rep since 2014 and has previously been public relations officer (PRO) of the SU Welfare committee.
Reflecting on her time at Trinity so far, Purser says that the college is home to “an accepting group, where you can be who you want to be.” However, Purser says that she found her first year at Trinity distinctly difficult. “I was quiet when I came to Trinity and I found it hard to settle in. On the first day of Freshers’ Week, I didn’t know anyone and I found it hard to settle in. When I eventually found someone I actually knew in Front Square, I had a panic attack.”
She was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, and says that “the disability service has made things so much easier. I learned through being in college that anxiety doesn’t define me… being stressed with college and assignments are struggles everyone goes through in college.” She says that it is difficult to “juggle being in class, making friends, joining societies and having time for yourself.”
Purser is looking to effect “a culture change – a promotion of positive mental health”. She says that through being the PRO of the Welfare committee, and working generally with last year’s committee, she is well aware that being Welfare Officer is “more than having great ideas… the ability to follow through with the ideas is what makes a great Welfare Officer.”
The two most important aspects of the SU for Purser are campaigns and case work. She says that campaigns “open up the SU”, and has helped run campaigns such as Rainbow Week and Body & Soul Week.
A Welfare Officer “needs to be approachable and nice”, she says. “What would I change about Welfare is getting out of campus.” Purser says that if students “aren’t in Dublin, the SU is still there for you … Radiation therapy students who go to Cork on placement or students in James’s… reminding them that the SU is there for them.”
Purser is an active member of Young Fine Gael, and is secretary of the Amber Flag committee within the party. On the question of being a prominent member of a political party that has, arguably, done much to threaten students’ welfare through austerity policies and funding cuts, Purser responds that YFG has “its own opinions and its own policies… YFG is an organisation that promotes positive mental health and is aware of mental health issues”. The youth branch is an “autonomous body”, she says, and they can agree and disagree with individual policies as espoused by the main body of the party.
One of Purser’s main manifesto points is to support Erasmus students who go abroad and international students who come to Trinity to study. Purser says that she will “reach out to international students and Erasmus students.” She hopes to start self-care workshops for Trinity students before they go abroad as a module that they can “refer back to” when away, and to facilitate office hours for students who are abroad by introducing Skype office hours.
She intends on creating an online handout for international visiting students which will give them information on many necessary aspects of life at Trinity, from how to book an appointment at the health centre to student counselling services. Purser says that issues for international students are often “not addressed on the spot.” For example, “when they come from another country, they should know that they need to book an appointment [with the Health Centre] in advance – giving information that there is a six-week waiting period.”
On the issue of sexual health, Purser is looking to reintroduce SHIFT and SHAG weeks, saying that sexual education is much more than “just throwing a condom at it.” Purser says that there is a need to “focus on sexual empowerment and looking at STI testing. The rate of STIs in gay men is dropping, but in women it is rising.” Some people “don’t know where to get checked” and that it is a “professional experience.” She is also looking to introduce a day that focusses solely on LGBTQ issues.
Another priority for Purser is to run campaigns on sensible drug and alcohol policies. She is looking to “highlight the effects” of both, and plans on continuing the “What’s In The Pill” and “What’s In The Powder” campaigns. Purser aims to see that there is a drug testing tent at Trinity Ball. She points to the example of a similar tent at Electric Picnic, where people who walk in are given amnesty, and any drugs are tested by the HSE. When students “know what the drugs are, they’re less likely to take them.” Purser says that it is about “creating a space so that the harm that is inevitable is reduced.” She is a member of the TCD Lobby Group, and says that “it was from the meetings with the Lobby Group that stemmed the idea of the drug testing tent.”
Purser’s final idea is for College to apply for the Amber Flag. This is a yearlong process where there is a “culture of change and positive mental health within the college.” Purser says that the initiative would be “College-wide”, and that mental health “affects every single person.”