By Theo Albert
–Since November 6 AUC students have been participating in the Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative organised by Peer Support. Peer Support, a student support group, organises this event annually as a way of raising attention to mental health care at AUC.
“AUC is a lot,” said Egle Maya Budreviciute, second-year Humanities major, who had reported mental health issues. “People who come here are very motivated and are usually cherry-picked from the best schools, so you’re already in the academic environment where there is a lot of pressure to succeed,” she said. Thanos Theofanakis, a second-year Social Science major who is a part of the peer support team, says the Mental Health Awareness Week recognises the mental health issues coming from AUC life. “What we want to do is raise awareness that there are a lot of people who suffer from this and let people with mental health issues know that it’s not as uncommon as they might think,” Theofanakis explained.
The week kicked off with a ‘What makes you happy’ whiteboard placed in the academic building on Monday. The intention was for people to write down and share positive activities. “It’s very simple, we just have a poster and a pen lying there and if people want they can write what makes them happy,” explained Theofanakis. “We’re going to use it later in the week”.
November 8 included the week’s first activity called “Happy Hike”, a collaboration between Peer Support and AUC’s Catch Board. The activity involved a trip to Abcoude, a small village outside of Amsterdam, for a three-hour walk including a picnic. “Our thought was that being in nature is good for your mental state,” explained Theofanakis.
November 9 included a workshop called “Dealing with the Aftermath”, in which Peer Support partnered up with the Anti Sexual Assault Program (ASAP). The workshop involved discussing topics related to sexual harassment and assault. “This discussion evening is supposed to firstly open a discussion in response to #metoo about the general anxiety women face as a result of our culture and the prevalence of sexual violence,” said Claudia Tara Dictus, a third-year Social Science major. “Secondly it aims to clarify the mental health impacts of sexual assault in particular by clarifying the effect and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Dictus.
On November 10 the Mental Health Exhibition will take place, hosted by AUC’s Art Board. This event will involve showcasing photography by Muzi Ndiweni, a third-year Science major. “Art is very closely related to mental health,” said Mya Berger, a third-year Social Science major and PR manager of the ART Board. Berger hopes that the exhibition will start a debate and that it will help to bring students closer to the issue.
Also, “Happy Hour” will take place on November 10 from 6 pm to 7 pm. During this hour students are encouraged to take time doing stuff that makes them happy, for example having dinner with friends or watching a movie. “We hope to be able to encourage students to be kind for themselves,” said Thirza Buijkx, a second-year Humanities major, who is also a peer supporter.
The Mental Health Awareness Week was well received by students with mental health issues. Emily Volovitz, a first-year Science Major who suffers from stress and anxiety, stated that “it’s a must to have programs like the Peer Support group and Zen meditation and yoga sessions to create this environment of security and mindfulness.” Budreviciute said, “I think it’s wonderful that lots of topics are addressed, and lots of conversations are encouraged.” She added, “in order to do something about it mental health you need to involve superiors and the tutors and the heads of studies of AUC.” Buijkx concluded by saying, “we hope that more people will know about mental health by attending our events, but also we hope to be able to help people in need and to encourage people to be kind to themselves.”
If you’re looking to find out more about the Mental Health Awareness Week or mental health in general, contact the peer support board at: Link