The Exam Period and the Associated Effects on Students’ Mental Health

One of every five adolescents experience mental and behavioural problems in any given year. While most cases go unnoticed or untreated, mental health is a serious issue that has affected people from all across the world. Luckily, the Netherlands ranks amongst the countries with the best mental healthcare plan. In view of the World Mental Health Day on October 10, The Amsterdammer explored the available resources for students who seek for emotional help.

A study by Kumari & Jain (2014) revealed that there is an association between the exams and high levels of stress. In the same way, stress would interfere in our performance and concentration in the exams. Given the upcoming exam period associated with pressure and stress, mental health awareness is becoming increasingly crucial among students. Students are more involved in extracurricular activities and part-time jobs – all while trying to maintain a healthy social life. Therefore, it is often assumed that students from elite institutions such as UvA should be stressed and tired by nature. But being aware of one’s mental health should never be underestimated. Mental health is a complex area for identification and treatment, that it can at times be difficult to identify appropriate management of potential issues. Terms like depression and bipolar are perhaps the most known mental disorders, but equally pressing challenges also include anxiety and sleep deficiency.

The University of Amsterdam grabbed people’s attention on Monday morning when they announced puppies will be held in a room in the library, as part of their plan to relief stress during the exam period. Only few hours later, the puppy room was already fully booked for the week. The university refused to provide any information regarding this initiative.

UvA attempts to manage the seemingly impossible task of catering to the plethora of mental health needs students may have through providing an array of services. According to Johan Rheeder, press officer at UvA, the university’s help ranges from personal to sports facilities and support. Today, the University of Amsterdam offers three different methods to help prevent or treat mental health: student counsellors, psychologists and contemplation rooms.

“[S]everal of these trainings are focused on stress-relief, mindfulness, anxiety reduction, self-confidence, grief counselling, support games and more,” explained Rheeder. These initiatives aim to provide the most comprehensive possible help and support for those in need.

UvA encourages students who “feel low or are facing difficult situations” to take advantage of the extensive network of support offered. An integral part of this network is the support offered by student counsellors who are able to offer help with finances, illness, personal problems or study-related issues. For one second-year Communication Science student, who wishes to remain anonymous, this counselling service proved  to be instrumental in dealing with their mental health issues.

Last April, a Health Week was dedicated to mental and physical health, in which workshops, info session and talks were provided. Rheeder emphasised how seriously UvA took mental health. “In the current 24/7 society in which we are constantly flooded with stimuli and are confronted with choice overload and pressure to perform, it is important to regularly stop and think about what we do, why and how,” said Rheeder.

A lesser-known alternative is a service connecting students from UvA and HvA with psychologists without a referral. These psychologists are working together with the University and are committed to helping students suffering from mental health issues and all associated problems such as financial issues, fear of exams, anxiety over presentations as well as personal problems relating to family, social issues or illness. Although the support offered by the university might help with some mental health problems, the university strongly recommends for students to contact external medical professionals, such as a GP or specialised mental healthcare professional, for more severe issues with mental health.

Yet, in today’s society mental health remains an unspoken topic. While the Netherlands and UvA have taken the measures to solve the issue, hundreds of students are unaware of the help the can seek for, and others remain unaware of their disorder.

  • Reporter (Fall 2018)
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