Peer Support and Student Council Introduce AUC to a Reformed Health Week

By Leon Byvanck

– On May 15, PlayUC and the Art Board joined forces for a night filled with games and blackout poetry. The evening was stimulated by the Student Council (SC) and Peer Support, in light of the Health Week at AUC, May 13-17.

Health Week was originally an initiative by Peer Support to give students a platform to discuss their (mental) health. Its inspiration came from the belief that stress and anxiety related issues are not tackled enough by the AUC institution. The annual week is hosted at the AUC dorms, Academic Building, and other places around Science Park.

The Health Weeks of previous years, then called Mental Health Awareness Week, were organised by Peer Support. However, this year the Health Week was coordinated by a working group that was created by SC and Peer Support. They created a sub-group, called the Mental Health Focus Group, whose aim is to organise events and promote the week. The subgroup has its roots on Facebook, where students would plan events to discuss mental health and AUC’s policy thereof.

According to Lela Roos, second-year Science major, one of the members of the subgroup and chair of Peer Support, this is a new type of cooperation.“This is the first time people outside are working together with us and that we focus on health in general,” she said.

Besides the new focus group, other committees helped to attract more participants. These committees included the Art committee, which planned an art related get-together. Another committee that participated was CUT, which hosted film screenings for the Health Week. Finally, PlayUC, a committee centred on games, hosted a card game event.

According to Melissa Kohler, first-year Social Science major and member of Peer Support, the week has been publicised much more than in previous years. “The other weeks were quite small, probably smaller than this week, especially because they were only organised by Peer Support,” she said. “Now, it’s Peer Support and Student Council, which has more access to other committees and to the screens [in the Academic Building].”

Promotion also came from outside sources. The focus group got in touch with a group of people at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), who planned a similar Health Week at their institution. Because of the overlapping theme, the mental health working group at AUC decided to host events open to UvA students. The co-organisers at the UvA returned the favor, inviting AUC students to take part in events such as yoga sessions, health checks, and lectures.

In terms of success, the results are clear. Last year, only one person outside of the Peer Support committee joined the Well-Being Walk, a walk through Flevopark where participants could discuss stress and anxiety. The total amount of participants was 10. According to Frederiek Tijssens, second-year Social Science major, this year the number of participants hiked up to 15.

Many of the students that participated in the Health Week were content with the discussion of anxiety and stress related issues. “You can see how much effort has been put into developing this week,” said Sasha Kenjeeva, second-year Social Science major. “Everyone has different nice advice that make you rethink for a moment how you should approach stressful moments.”

For future Health Weeks, Roos stated that they will work to maintain a structure that includes the cooperation between committees. However, the discussion may sway away from just stressful experiences and include topics like mental health policy change at AUC. “This way, we can have attendees talk to each other while making a difference for future students,” said Roos.

Photo by Leon Byvanck

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.

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