Matt Port from University of Leeds recently set up our newest chapter, SSDP Leeds. Here’s a short interview where he introduces himself and the chapter.
Tell me a bit about yourself, what you study, your interests and why you decided to start a chapter.
My name’s Matt and I’m doing the final year of my undergraduate English and Comparative Literature degree. I love my course, but any excuse to get involved in campaigning around drugs and mental health is my passion. Alongside my degree, I’m heavily involved in the Mountaineering and Climbing Club at Leeds, and I also like taking photos in my spare time! I decided to start an SSDP chapter after taking a year out of my degree to work for our students’ union. I worked all year on opening dialogue around drugs and drug harm reduction, and wanted to carry on doing this once I had returned to my degree!
Two other students, Sophie and Venessa, are also starting the chapter with me and together we all put on our welcome event and made big plans for the year.
Tell me a bit about the War on Drugs in the UK and what needs to change.
The UK’s War on Drugs disproportionately affects those from already marginalised communities, and the rhetoric around drug abuse is unsurprisingly classist. With Stop and Search powers being used on black people at eight times the rate of their white counterparts, drug use among people experiencing homelessness is condemned, all while conversations around Members of Parliament taking cocaine barely raise an eyebrow. It is clear that racism and classism are unavoidable aspects of the UK’s attitude and policy.
What are your goals, what actions do you hope to achieve, tell me a bit about your members, what will be your focus?
Our focus this year is getting the group up and running, delivering supportive environments to complete Just Say Know peer education, while also changing drug policy on campus. We have good links with the university and the students’ union, and we hope to elevate the voice of students and young people whose mental health and drug use are subject to increasing academic and social pressure, worsened by punitive drug policies.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Leeds has a reputation for being a ‘party city,’ but the link between drug use and mental health means that students want to be more informed than ever before. Being able to access impartial information and support has never been more important to students, and we hope to provide that with our chapter!