Quite a few students struggle with mental problems. What does Hanze UAS have to offer them? And to what extent should this support go? — by Gaily Reiling
In 2021, the Trimbos Institute published its first national survey on the mental health of students in higher education. The immediate reason for the study were the measures taken by the government to curb the covid pandemic. These were so drastic that public authorities became really concerned about the well-being of young people. Even more than they already were, because in the pre-covid period educational authorities had been worried about this as well.
The Trimbos survey found that over half of students (51 percent) experienced mental health problems, and one in eight students even struggled with severe complaints.
The first point of contact is always the lecturer who acts as your tutor
In 2022, as part of the health surveys around covid-19, the state of students’ mental well-being was examined again. This latest round of measurements showed that the number of students with mental problems had dropped a little.
Anyhow, it is very nice that students struggling with such problems have somewhere to turn. Caspar Kraaijpoel, a student counsellor at Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Hanze UAS), says there are several routes available. The first point of contact is always the lecturer who acts as a tutor (at Hanze UAS also known as study career counsellor).
Tutors can help the student themselves or point out other possibilities. For instance, students can make use of the help Hanze Student Support (HSS) has to offer. At HSS a student can take various courses and request a meeting with the student counsellor who can refer him to the student psychologist. ‘Mental problems do usually have an impact on your functioning as a student’, says Kraaijpoel, ‘this is a starting-point of the student counsellors. The student psychologist can focus on the mental problems in a later stage.’
A student psychologist does have a somewhat different approach than the regular psychologist
The student counsellors also see it as their job to prepare students for their visit to the student psychologist. ‘A student has to go to the student psychologist with the right expectations’, says Kraaijpoel. ‘After all, they do have a somewhat different approach than the regular psychologist. For instance, the support has a maximum of five sessions, and it is aimed at helping you persevere in your studies.’
According to Kraaijpoel a short-term programme of five sessions will not be enough for everyone, though. Especially if more serious problems are involved, it is wise to allow for a longer therapy programme with a regular psychologist.
The demand for psychological help has increased at Hanze in recent years. In 2021, 315 students entered a therapy programme with the student psychologist. In 2020, there were only 100. (Figures for 2022 will be announced sometime in the next few weeks).
‘In my fourth year, I broke down completely. I was under a lot of stress privately’
According to Kraaijpoel, this growth is simply due to the fact that Hanze hired extra student psychologists during this period. A team of five psychologists is now on hand. In 2019, when Hanze UAS hired student psychologists for the first time in history, there were only two.
When Amber (not her real name, ed.) was studying Social Work, Hanze did not have a single student psychologist yet. ‘In my fourth year, I broke down completely. I was under a lot of stress privately and on top of that I had suddenly become a breadwinner. During the specialisation, a lecturer noticed that I was not doing well. She advised me to have a talk with the student counsellor. The only help this counsellor could offer me was study delay.’ Amber put her studies on hold until the combination of studying and private problems became too heavy: she stopped studying altogether.
It may happen that students have different expectations of the counselling, or that five sessions simply aren’t enough
Now that there is more help for students, not everyone is positive. Emiel, who doesn’t want his real name in the newspaper, is dissatisfied with the help he received from the student psychologist. ‘My experience with the counsellors at the Hanze is that the help is quick, but not sufficient. At least not for me.’
Kraaijpoel takes a practical stance: sometimes counselling does not catch on. ‘In that respect, student psychologists are no different from normal psychologists. There is no guarantee of a click between two people.’
‘In the end, Hanze UAS is not a mental health institution’
It may also happen that students have different expectations of the counselling, or that five sessions simply aren’t enough. Kraaijpoel: ‘Of course, it is not realistic to think that all students get out of it what they expect. But I do think that the majority really benefit from the interventions.’
The primary task of a university of applied sciences is education. That is why all Hanze Student Support facilities are aimed at students continuing their studies. Kraaijpoel: ‘In the end, Hanze UAS is not a mental health institution. Of course, we do our very best to match our offer to the student’s needs.’
Photo (fragment): Zachary Kadolph