As you may have spotted, we have had two statues installed on campus to help raise awareness of mental health issues. The statues have been designed by students to both demystify and destigmatise mental health.
You can find the first statue in Library Square, which is called 'Elephant in the Room'. It was designed by Chierol Lai, who has said of the statue:
“A sleeping baby elephant cast out of bronze resin is a sculpture designed to raise awareness and even help with one’s mental health. The elephant being the metaphorical idiom for problems no one wants to talk about and sleeping baby for the tranquillity and innocence.
This sculpture can be found on one of the benches in the busy Library Square, which is the heart of Queen Mary University of London. The specific placement and location allows for maximum effectiveness and interaction between people and elephant. With students coming in and out of the library after hours of work, possibly feeling stressed or simply need some fresh air, can sit next to the baby elephant and keep each other company. They can stroke it like one would stroke their pet. Should multiple people sit around the sculpture, it acts as encouragement to talk to each other about anything that is bothering them.
The material choice, cast bronze resin, is what encourages interaction between the public and sculpture. Bronze resin allows the baby elephant to look more realistic due to its similar colouring but it is also a material that becomes more and more shiny and golden depending on frequency of people caressing it. Just like how people change this sculpture can change over time as well.
With this sculpture I hope to achieve the normalisation of mental health and to remove the stigma. Most importantly, whether you are going through a hard time or not, the sleeping baby elephant is just there to keep you company and to help you feel more at peace.”
The statue in the foyer of the Graduate Centre is ‘Mentis’ and was designed by Sophia Álvarez Barnes, who said of her statue:
“Mentis represents the struggle that we all experience at some point, in some way, one that is often extremely isolating. The open structure of the sculpture signifies that help and support can be reached, no matter how difficult things may seem.”
The competition to design a statue was originally advertised in 2015 by then-VP Welfare Miranda. The initial panel included the designer of the Knowledge statue in Library Square, the Director of Estates, the Mental Health Coordinator and representatives from the Students’ Union. According to Miranda:
“We shortlisted to three, intending to pick one design, but as each is so unique and speak to mental health in different ways I found the funding so that we could install all three.
These two sculptures were made by Hannah Stewart, who has been amazing throughout the whole process. Hannah is now going to advertise the 'Elephant in the Room' statue on her website, with a proportion of proceeds from each sale going to a mental health charity of the Students' Union's choice.
The third design which is yet to be installed is by Haleema Ilahi, a second-year Biology student, focuses on famous people/ academics who have lived experience of poor mental health.”
We would like to say a huge thank you to the QMUL Alumni Annual Fund, the Campus Community Fund and Morag Shiach, without whom the statues would not have been possible.