Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
New plan for student well-being
MAASTRICHT. Not more psychologists, initially, but shorter waiting times of a maximum of four weeks. How does the team of student supervisors at Maastricht University plan on managing that? Among others by focussing more on prevention, says the new plan for student well-being. The magic word is communication about what the UM has to offer for students who want more insight into their problems or look for support.
The University Council approved the proposals last December. The necessary 250 thousand euro will be paid from the money that has become available by the abolishing of the basic grant system, the student loan funds that must be spent on the improvement of education. The supervision of students is an important theme in this.
We hear more and more stories about how hard student life is today. A majority appears to be suffering from anxieties and depressions. The reason? Study stress is mentioned often, as well as the energy it takes to build up a new social life, the addiction to social media, and the fear of missing out. But how many are really suffering from problems? There are no hard figures, at least not in Maastricht. That is why the UM is going to participate in the Caring Universities project, an initiative embedded within the World Health Organisation. Nineteen affiliated Dutch and foreign universities are going to distribute questionnaires among their students asking them about their mental well-being and start an experiment with e-health modules (about anxiety and depression, for example).
The UM's new well-being plan focuses mainly on prevention and resilience. “Students should learn to recognise the signals of stress or loneliness and know where they can go for help,” says Mieke Jansen, team leader of psychologists and career services. An appointment with the UM psychologist is not always necessary. Group training on stress management or fear of failure can provide a great deal of insight, says Jansen. “Since September, we have gone from 28 to 78 lessons.” In addition, there will be a pool of “external” trainers for these group trainings. Therefore, the UM psychologists can spend more time on individual appointments.
Furthermore, the annual well-being will be extended; there is even talk of a ‘movement’. The activity week has been taking place since 2017, in autumn, and was initially organised by University College Maastricht, the psychology faculty and the team of student supervisors. In 2019, four faculties are expected to join, and by 2020 the entire UM should be covered. The well-being ‘movement’ is described as being an extracurricular education module with lectures, workshops, and film events, which students can take part in voluntarily. There will also be a website.
Something else that should add to the students' well-being is better coaching by lecturers and support from fellow-students, much like the existing ISAP programme in which senior students help new international students find their way in the city. This year, there will be a number of different pilot projects in faculties, for example in the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences, where a buddy system for non-European master's students will be introduced.
There are no vacancies for extra UM psychologists (now six, not fulltime) yet, but waiting times will be reduced to a maximum of twenty working days. Students have to deal with thirty to even forty working days at the moment. A walk-in consultation with the UM psychologists should help students on their way more quickly. According to Jansen, such a meeting should lower the threshold for someone to take part in group training sessions or to ask for help outside the UM in the case of more serious problems.
Lastly, this year there will be a “solid” communication plan, because providing information is still not perfect, says Jansen. A part-time communication assistant will be appointed.