Links to the mentioned initiatives are included in this article.
This last academic year has been a struggle for many students, especially those who started their university experience in 2020. It has taken a lot of effort to adjust to the learning and lifestyle that the COVID-19 pandemic demands of us, and many have found it difficult to adapt to these changes to our routine. Those students who additionally moved out in August 2020 to live in Amsterdam had the additional pressure of having to find friends, get accustomed to a new country or city, and additionally adapt to taking care of oneself independently and starting a new educational course. When you feel as though your mental health is falling behind and you can not seem to get yourself out of a bad mindset or a dark space, what can the UvA offer you?
The first initiative, which was recently introduced, is UvA Walks, a platform that allows you to get in touch with another student so you can take a walk together. When signing up, students will receive the contact details for a walking buddy at the end of the week so they can make an appointment together. If you do not live in Amsterdam, you can sign up for a ‘phone walk’, so you and another student can chat on the phone during your walk.
Another initiative for decreasing feelings of loneliness or isolation is a Discord which is available to study with your fellow students whenever you wish. If you are lacking motivation this is a great option to work alongside other students in a virtual space. Psychology student Seung Ju Kim has also launched a podcast series called ‘Voiced Vulnerabilities’ in which students discuss topics such as mental health and loneliness, which is definitely worth a listen if you want to be reminded that how you’re feeling is reflected in the experiences of many others around you and that you are not alone. If you are an active person, there is a Whatsapp group for finding a running buddy in Amsterdam, so that you can do sport alongside a fellow UvA student.
There are various online workshops offered by the university either in the form of support groups or training courses ranging from dealing with grief to mindfulness and stress management. From April 12th through to April 17th, 2021, there is a Health Week being offered by the UvA including sports activities, meditation, workshops on mental health, addiction, and stress management, to name a few. The program and registration for this can be found on the website as well, and all the activities are completely free.
The student psychologists are available to make appointments for issues regarding motivation, concentration, procrastination, and stress. Currently, they recommend going to a doctor for serious mental health issues.
Of course, there must also be help offered in cases where no amount of sport or meditation is able to get you out of a low, depressed point. The student psychologists are available to make appointments for issues regarding motivation, concentration, procrastination, and stress. Currently, they recommend going to a doctor for serious mental health issues. However, UvAWellbeing, a student initiative aiming to provide a safe space to protect the mental health of students, has confirmed that, following a meeting between student representatives and the UvA’s board of directors, the board has agreed to commit to hiring a psychologist specialized in stopping suicides, and also to allow multiple consecutive consults per student. This is on the condition that the professors of clinical psychology agree to the proposed solution.
In the meantime, while students wait for their student psychologist appointment, UvAWellbeing has come forward as a safe space for students to come together and support each other. The initiative is aiming to be transparent with students about the developments in the UvA’s development of its mental health initiatives and is also planning on incorporating Zoom meetings in the future, for students to support one another. So make sure to keep an eye on their Instagram page @uvawellbeing for updates on future initiatives and updates!
I spoke with the chair of the FSR-FMG, Pedro, who is the file holder of mental health, meaning he focuses on improving the mental health facilities for students at the UvA. In a Medium Magazine Student Couch episode, Pedro stated that the FSR is actively working towards implementing a canvas page with all the necessary information about wellbeing in order to make this information more easily accessible to all students. This button on the Canvas page will include emergency contact points for social safety, sexual harassment, mental health, physical health, and studying. Currently, the FSR is working on deciding what exact information will be included and they have already reached out to the Canvas managers in order to implement this together.
Lastly, it is obviously always possible to reach out to your study advisors who are there to support you with any concerns regarding your current study situations. Communication Science study advisor Marie Hoogstraten states that there are phone hours daily, sometimes even twice a day, for students who wish to speak with them. It is important for all students to know that it is always possible to contact the study advisors about your issues so that they can provide further guidance on how to go forward. She has also confirmed what UvAWellbeing has already expressed, which is that students are struggling with motivation and trying to find a new rhythm. Some students have to push themselves more to go to class or start their day with studying.
Marie has said that the study advisors have noticed that these times, especially with COVID-19 restrictions, are getting tough on students since there are some more cases of anxiety, somber, ‘gloomy’ and more towards feelings of depression.
Additionally, Marie has said that the study advisors have noticed that these times, especially with COVID-19 restrictions, are getting tough on students since there are some more cases of anxiety, somber, ‘gloomy’ and more towards feelings of depression. However, she also points out that there are a lot of students who are actually doing better in their studies, as there are fewer distractions caused by the restrictions on social activities. The overall grades and passing percentages she sees in Communication Science are not less than in previous years, yet this does not mean that students are all doing well socially and mentally since loneliness is definitely something the study advisors are hearing of more often.
It is crucial for all students to know that there is help available for them and that they are not alone with their struggles. Many people are feeling exactly how you are, and it is possible to receive help and more importantly to ask for help from others.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help through a licensed therapist or call a suicide hotline from your country.
Cover: Keira Burton
Edited by: Carolina Alves