Chapter 2 –
By Chia-Ai Hsu | May 11, 2021
Cover Illustration: Thinking girl with knots clouds. Anabella Villanueva / The Amsterdammer
Inspired by recent events, the University of Amsterdam’s student body has taken it upon themselves to lend a helping hand to those in need of emotional support, writes University Reporter Chia-Ai Hsu in the second chapter of It’s Okay to Not Be Okay.
On March 16, 2021, students from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) created the Instagram account @uvawellbeing to provide a safe space for UvA students struggling with their mental health, aiming to protect them. Through the promotion of several well-known student accounts, the account has gained over a thousand followers since the beginning of April.
The team behind this account includes members from @uva.bios, @uvahappenings, @beingperfectisboring, and @020.nl (a political party at UvA). The managing director of 020, second-year Political Science student, Dédé Kruisman, expresses his support for the ideas @uvawellbeing stands by.
According to Kruisman, this account has two main goals: firstly, to host events or meetings that help create conversations between students with similar [mental health] issues; and try to propose actual policy changes at the UvA.
“We are not only there as an organization to create these events and create a safe space, but we also really want to push for a policy change and stand up for the people,” said Kruisman. “By promoting [proposals] through our social media, we hope to… show the UvA that there are a lot of students who care about [mental health issues], and really pressure the UvA in actually taking steps.”
On March 18, a group of student representatives had a meeting with UvA’s board of directors to propose six policy ideas. Zep van de Visse, another second-year Political Science student, talks about one of the policies that asks UvA to hire more psychologists.
“The UvA is doing exactly what is legally required to do, and that is not much. Officially in the Dutch law, it’s said that the government should provide [mental health] care. International students are not Dutch citizens and many Dutch citizens don’t have the funds to afford the mostly free [mental] healthcare.,” said van de Visse. “Now the UvA has some psychologists, who are, as far as I know, not qualified to deal with long-term therapy… We are hoping that UvA gives better and more mental health care to give students more resources.”
“… We feel like the roles of the mentors, the roles of your tutors can also be a lot more focused on your mental health, where right now it is very focused, completely on your academic health…,” adds Kruisman about another policy. “The UvA seems to agree with it, but the step to implementation is the toughest battle.”
A lot of these problems are believed to be national, and a change at the UvA can help lead a student movement on a bigger scale. If change is made possible at the UvA, it is also possible to make changes in other universities.
Aside from the policy proposals, @uvawellbeing continues to post messages and information relevant to students’ well-being. Here they encourage everyone to join their meetings to talk about their problems or to socialize with one another.
Various student councils, study associations, and students from all faculties have been reaching out to @uvawellbeing to support their initiatives. By standing together, we increase the chances of getting attention which could lead to effective policy changes at the UvA. Universities thrive on student success, and students will never be able to reach their full potential as long as their mental health is not taken into consideration. Hence, it is in everyone’s best interest to implement policies to promote a more safe environment within academia.
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