Day 300, how do I stay mentally sane?

Everyday is the same. Since the 16th of March I have been studying digitally. This is day 304 of trying to pass my degree without without on-site education, not seeing my fellow students and now seeing my teachers. There haven’t been any events with my study association in months and the fun of an online pub quiz has officially worn off. I feel alone. I guess I’ll go outside for a walk. But no, because it’s raining cats and dogs. Okay, back inside then, back to my desk. Maybe I’ll be able to stay focused in class now, despite the constant pop-ups from the NOS (Dutch news website) about the infection rate in The Netherlands, that keeps increasing. How do I continue? Where do I go for help?

Studying at home;

– Practical tips for working from home

– How can you motivate yourself?

– Tips to avoid procrastination

In a March 2020 the UMC (University Medical Centre) published an article in which they detailed these three headers for students that went from normal on-site education to completely digital education in the span of a few days. The wellbeing of students and the mental health of students is not mentioned. The pandemic causes a lot of stress for students. This stress isn’t new. On the 3rd of October 2019, before the pandemic, the HvanA published an article describing students’ experiences alongside statistics from the Hogeschool Windesheim. These statistics show that 70% of students experience performance pressure often to very often and that 37% of the questioned students experience mental health issues. Even before the added stress of the pandemic, one in four students was tackling a burnout.

The numbers are doing well, and the students?

The big blow came in March. Corona slowly took over the country and the government took the necessary steps in order to keep the danger as low as possible. This resulted in all of studying Holland being unable to travel to the big cities and having to finish their 2019-2020 academic year from their bedrooms. The rule of the binding study advice was abolished for the first year students. The education that students received was not the education that they had signed up for.

The Association for Higher Education and the VSNU spoke up about the improving study results. There is less drop-out. This does not mean that students are doing well. Less drop-out is a logical result of the abolition of the binding study advice. The causes great concern that the evaluation of students’ wellbeing is based on their study results. In March 2020 the doctors and psychologists warned us about the impact that the corona crisis could have on students’ mental health. This concern was brushed off with statements such as “in September everything will be back to normal” or “we are all having a hard time, it is what it is”. This isn’t necessarily a strange reaction. Resolving the corona crisis was the priority after all.

We have now begun a new year wherein students are still stuck at home in a lockdown. Students in their first year have not met the majority of their fellow students yet. What’s more is that they haven’t even seen or heard some of them yet. The Dutch Institute for Psychologists (Dutch: NIP) is witnessing a huge increase in applications in the whole of The Netherlands. Student psychologists are also witnessing a peak in applications. Those same student psychologists already had more work before the corona crisis than they could handle.

Loneliness, sadness and anxiety play a huge role in students’ mental health at the moment. The increase of these symptoms begs the question ‘what can we do?’ ‘where can we go?’. A ‘cuddle buddy’ or ‘keep in touch with your friends’ are posed as solutions. For students that have recently moved here in the summer, this isn’t such a straight forward solution. ‘Hey dad, it’s me again’ is heard a lot more often on a Wednesday than a Saturday. ‘Well there was no one home in my student flat, so this is a lot more fun’. Students are struggling to cope with the negative effects that the corona crisis has on their mental health. The HvA and the UvA offer services to support students through this time, however these are often unknown to students.

Student psychologists

Student psychologists are psychologists that offer guidance and support to students who experience psychological problems – according to the UvA. During a short and solution-based trajectory the psychologist can speak with the student about fear of failure or procrastination, for instance. They can also tackle problems that inhibit a student’s functioning during their studies or affect their personal life such as an unstable living situation or loneliness and sadness. The student psychologist is only available for a short treatment trajectory, as mentioned previously. The student psychologist can refer the student to their GP when they feel this is necessary. The treatment is free and can be requested via the HvA and the UvA. The student psychologists work at the Roeterseilandcampus.

Apart from a registration form, you can also request help from your study advisor or a student dean

Tips for studying from home

If students need help with something, the student psychologist is not always the first step towards a solution. Some students already appreciate a list of tips. The HvA and the UvA offer a list of tips to support students during the pandemic.

The ‘Luisterlijn’ (Listening line)

There are a lot of students who before, but also especially during, the pandemic could really benefit from a sympathetic ear that can console them, listen to their worries or help them organize their thoughts. The ‘Luisterlijn‘ is available day and night to offer emotional support on a voluntary basis. The goal of the ‘Luisterlijn’ is to normalize listening to one another without judgement and with compassion. The Luisterlijn does not have a commercial aim, simply an aim to help people who are experiencing psychological problems. The conversations are not meant as a psychological therapy, they are real conversations between two people. The volunteers are trained in order to conduct the conversations in a constructive way. The Luisterlijn is completely anonymous and can be reached by chat, email or phone op 0900 0767.

In case of emergency

In an acute case of emergency, contact 112. If there is not an immediate threat, but you are experiencing unpleasant thoughts, you can contact 113 the national suicide prevention hotline. They are available day and night via or 0800 0113.