This article is part of a series that elaborates on student perspectives and propositions regarding salient issues at Maastricht University from members of the EDLAB Student Advisory Board. This specific article focuses on the issue of student well-being at UM and was written by ESAB members Helena Volarevic, Annemarie Sänger, and Rahel Koch.
It is undeniable that the past year has presented students with many unexpected and sometimes heart-breaking challenges. Plans were derailed, classes switched online, friends were kept at a distance and the isolation intensified while the city slowly closed down around us. During these taxing circumstances, it is more important than ever to support students in maintaining wellbeing and providing help for mental health challenges. While UM recognized this need early on and worked to increase the resources available, many students continue to be unaware of their existence. The subgroup focusing on student wellbeing at EDLAB’s Student Advisory Board has worked this past semester to change that by designing an action plan to make these resources more visible.
The resource paradox
Following a thorough online search it becomes clear that initiatives and resources for student wellbeing in Maastricht are not lacking. Within the university there are mental health initiatives students generally have knowledge of such as the Wellbeing Movement. On the other hand, UM provides plenty of additional resources such as student psychologists and mini-courses that students can use when they need more help. However, most of these resources are not well known and as a result end up less used, despite their benefits. The core issue at hand is knowing where to find them. Maastricht University recently compiled a long yet partial list of mental health resources available to students. Again, many students – including the authors of this text – were unaware of any such listing as well as many of the resources found on it.
Visibility and promotion
Following extensive discussion among ESAB members and fellow students to discern the most effective intervention points to make student wellbeing resources more visible, we suggest the following three steps to be taken: First, freshmen should be introduced to the afore-mentioned UM wellbeing resource page and instructed on its use at the start of the academic year. Second, we encourage student mentors to be asked to discuss wellbeing resources available in Maastricht with their respective freshmen group. The mentor system provides an ideal location within each program to introduce these resources in a small group setting. The smaller, yet personal setting allows for more understanding and time to discuss. Third, we would recommend adding a mental health button to Canvas that directs students immediately to the page which would decrease the time needed to find specific resources in case of an emergency.
What is still missing?
As previously mentioned, the list of resources for student wellbeing by UM does not account for all the amazing support offered to students in Maastricht. For instance, student-led initiatives are seldom mentioned in the conversation on available resources. We believe that it would be beneficial to include them as they fill gaps left by university support and additionally, can also create a sense of community among students. In Maastricht, there exist student-initiatives that discuss and provide support on topics such as grief, loneliness, consent, catcalling and more. We believe that these initiatives should be given the spotlight more often for the benefits they provide to students and the university. We would like to highlight initiatives such as:
Cat Calls of Maastricht: https://linktr.ee/CatcallsOfMaastricht
Consent Matters: https://www.facebook.com/consentmattersmaastricht
Student-initiatives within The InnBetween: https://www.innbetween.nl/
Looking into the future
Maastricht University has plenty of good resources for students to find information and help for wellbeing when they need it. However, to allow the student body to effectively benefit from these offers, their visibility needs to be increased. In addition, more student-led initiatives should be brought to light, as they can benefit students immensely while taking the strain off of university resources. Thus, to further support students in their wellbeing, we would hope to see these resources become more visible on the different university platforms. Specifically, we suggest adding them to the UM wellbeing resource page, the UM newsletter, the EDLAB webpage, and within the listing MyMaastricht has on student wellbeing. After all, there cannot be too much advertising when it comes to such useful, beneficial, and free resources.