Liverpool student honoured by Prime Minister for mental health campaign

A medical student at the University of Liverpool has received Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s daily Points of Light award ahead of World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October.

Shantanu Kundu set up the ‘Be Free Campaign’ to reduce the stigma about mental health among young people. Shantanu and his volunteer ambassadors use their social media following to promote mental wellbeing, and have held street campaigns and workshops in schools and universities for 6,000 young people in the North West and Midlands. Shantanu’s award follows success from earlier this year, which saw his campaign funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to support its outreach work, and recognition from The Diana Awards for his services to charity.

In a personal letter to Shantanu, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “As we mark World Mental Health Day, I am delighted to recognise the fantastic work you have done creating the ‘Be Free Campaign’.

“Together with your team of ambassadors, you have inspired thousands of students and young people across the country to talk openly about their mental health. With your enormous social media following you are transforming attitudes towards mental health and showing the world it’s okay not to feel okay.

“As Prime Minister, I want to see mental health given just the same urgency and seriousness with which we treat our physical well-being. But in this country we all too often get terribly British about such things, stiffening our upper lips and suffering on in silence.

“For that to change I know that we need to get a lot more people talking openly and honestly about what is going on inside their heads – so you can imagine how pleased I was to hear how the Be Free Campaign is helping thousands of people do just that.”

Reacting to the Prime Minister’s announcement, Shantanu said: “It has been the honour of my life to have received this award and thanks from the Prime Minister. Especially during these times, mental health issues have become highly prevalent. I am overwhelmed by the amount of support that this charity has received from communities and the government. I would like to thank my team, without whom none of this would have been possible. I never thought my actions or work had warranted such kindness from the Prime Minister, but I am truly humbled and honoured to be recognised for my work. Mental health is important, you are never alone, speak up and get help.”

Shantanu is the 1496th person to receive the Prime Minister’s UK daily Points of Light award, which was first launched in April 2014 to recognise outstanding individuals making a difference where they live. Each day, someone, somewhere in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements, including hundreds of volunteers who have been recognised for how they have served their communities through the coronavirus pandemic.