“The Psychologist Ignored Me when I Told Her I Wanted Long-Term Help”: AUC Students Open up about Their Mental Health

By Milan Matthes Kale

Illustration by Sabine Besson, Collage by Amal

Welcome to Humans of AUC, my version of Humans of New York, from our own little bubble. This collection of stories and experiences with regards to AUC’s international student population’s experience with mental health has been a long time coming. AUC has a completely new generation of students, who have had most of their studies occur during the pandemic, taking a toll on their mental health. As school moved online, so did AUC’s mental health resources, a change that made seeking help more difficult. The Student Council and well-being team announced in 2020 that they were working on creating a Learning Disorder Manual and a Mental Health Guide. As of yet, neither has been published, leaving many students in the dark. These stories began to be collected through interviews during the darker months on campus, with finals looming, and winter break just over the horizon.

Third-Year Humanities Major, Germany

“I have always struggled with a lot of stress. Time management and organisation are extremely hard for me. During the second lockdown, I felt really burnt out, in the non-watered-down sense of the word. I have recently been suspecting that a lot of that stress originates from me having ADHD, which is in tension with whatever capitalist values seep into structuring learning at AUC: focused tasks, very linear problem solving, efficiency, perpetual productivity. None of these are inherent to learning and growing in my opinion. But AUC does intend to set us up for a knowledge economy, as is stated on the website. So, I am not sure whether whatever I am struggling with is simply the structure of these expectations or ADHD. Most likely, it is both. And most likely, ADHD would not necessarily have to be a problem in some different learning environments. I had been reaching out to my teachers, tutor, and the Student Life Officer during the second lockdown. What came from that was mostly just understanding, encouragement, and very little accommodation for how my stress impacts my ability to ‘perform’.I am very bad at [dealing with] bureaucracy, which I could attribute to ADHD, thus making it harder for me to seek help for ADHD, it’s a silly cycle.”

Mckayla Wehrli, Second-Year Science Major, USA

Image: McKayla Wehrli

“I have struggled with my mental health before attending AUC, but certain aspects have worsened since the start of university. For example, depression and motivation issues and traumatic events caused heightened anxiety.

Back in late May/early June, I was having a lot of issues with someone which was causing me to relive/remember a lot of trauma I had experienced around a year before. This caused me a lot of anxiety and I spent most of this time in my room trying to not think about any of the stuff that was happening. I was depressed and unmotivated and most days the most I did was get up to make Ramen just so I would have eaten something that day. Eventually, my friend pulled me out of it by taking me on late night walks to talk and just get out of the house and she helped me get out of that mindset and out of that situation. She helped me look for professional help and helped me work through all of the emotions I was feeling.

I have sought help from the Student Life Officers, specifically with Lisa, and before having direct meetings with her I contacted Aino about how to get help for my mental health in the Netherlands. I then looked into getting help through the public health sector — meaning I went to my GP who referred me to a psychologist who was then meant to refer me to specialised help. I was not successful. I got stuck because the process was taking a long time and was very discouraging. After I went to the GP, he told me “well you don’t seem too depressed right now so I don’t think I need to refer you to specialised help right away,” which didn’t make me want to seek further help. When I went to the GP psychologist, she seemed concerned with my issues, but the process of trying to find a suitable place to go was a lot of work and most of the places dealt with their things mostly in Dutch so I wasn’t able to call them. The GP psychologist consistently ignored me when I told her I wanted long-term help, not just a couple week seminar thing which she kept recommending to me.”

Second-Year Humanities Major

“I have almost constantly suffered from anxiety throughout the past year and a half here at AUC. It has usually manifested in ways that are manageable in my day-to-day responsibilities. I am usually just feeling slightly anxious with any daily task, whilst simultaneously worrying about past and future tasks. Sometimes, triggering situations, which are mostly related to my pre-AUC trauma, do cause me to have more severe symptoms — short panic attacks. Those are luckily short-lived and don’t stay for more than a day or two but are more common than before. One of the more persistent symptoms that influences my life is sleeping. I go through phases of being unable to sleep to oversleeping. I did not want to start taking sleeping pills. Although I have taken some melatonin in the past, it makes me sleep for longer periods, which is not what I always have time for. Sleep deprivation also underlines the cycle of anxiety, so it is a vicious circle.

I have started having regular meetings and talks with the Student Life Officer. This helps somewhat, as they are very good listeners, and sometimes it is nice to know that someone cares. I have wanted to find psychotherapy. However, I have given up on that whole process because of the insane waiting lists, which would have gotten me to the first meeting with a therapist almost a year after the first appointment with a GP. I also don’t have enough money to pay for a private therapist, so the whole situation has made me even more anxious. Thus, I have given up.

I feel like AUC should have its own psychologist — or multiple. I think many people have been suffering from mental health problems, especially in the past 2 years, which is reason enough. UvA’s therapist seems like they have a lot of work, and provides consulting only for school-related problems, which is not enough in many cases.”

Mental health resources within AUC and UvA:

Psychologists – UvA Students – University of Amsterdam – https://student.uva.nl/en/content/az/psychologists/psychologists.html
Psychologists – Vrije Universiteit – https://vu.nl/en/education/more-about/student-psychological-counsellors
Meetings with SLOs (office365.com) – https://outlook.office365.com/owa/calendar/MeetingswithSLOs@Amsuni.onmicrosoft.com/bookings/
Student counselors – UvA Students – University of Amsterdam – https://student.uva.nl/en/content/az/student-counsellors/student-counsellors.html#Study-skills
Care Amsterdam – safe spaces and support – University of Amsterdam – https://uvadiversity.blog/care-amsterdam/

A list of English and other non-dutch speaking psychologists and counselors in Amsterdam:

Psychologenpraktijk N. Gorin-Frank: https://gorinpsychologen.nl/
Psychologie- en psychotherapiepraktijk Marquette: https://www.marquette-psychologen
Kuhler and Partners: https://www.internationalmentalhealth.nl/#about
Cloud Busting Therapy: https://cloudbustingtherapy.com/en/home-en/
And more therapists for internationals in Amsterdam – https://www.iamexpat.nl/expat

Suicide hotline and other relevant links:

133 or 0800-0133

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