AUC Student Body and Well-Being Team Struggle To See Eye-to-Eye Regarding Mental Health Support

By Violet Domínguez

Collage by Sabine Besson

As AUC’s Student Life Officers and Peer Support search for ways to address students’ mental health needs they encounter a difficult dilemma: a mismatch in students’ expectations of them.

While students call for more information and support, Peer Support and Student Life Officers remain puzzled as to how to enhance their visibility and advertise their resources. These clashes cause an ongoing issue, leading students to believe that AUC’s initiatives are insufficient, and leaving potentially helpful resources underused.

AUC students have long been advocates for mental health help, albeit the resources provided by the university do not seem to have gained much attraction. Both Peer Support and SLOs express that people are not reaching out very often to ask for help, and it remains a challenge to improve their visibility. They have hung various posters around the AB and attempted to reach more engagement on social media, even creating their own Instagram page in hopes to be as distinguishable as possible. 

Kasper van Rooijen, Peer Support co-chair, expressed being aware that many people didn’t really know about the resources they provided, and said that they attempted to be more present during this year’s intro week. Lisa Van Berkel, a Student Life Officer, added that visibility is a big issue for them too, though she suspects students’ presumptions could be largely accountable for the number of students that do not reach out. “Sometimes it’s not entirely known what we do as the SLOs and that we’re just there for like: Oh, I need a note for BoE, I need this one time thing,” said Van Berkel, while remarking that they were there for long term coaching: “Though it is not a substitute for therapy, we are actually all trained as psychologists. Maybe we need to work on promoting that we’re there for more than just these one time things.”

She explained that the SLOs could also provide regular meetings, even spanning the entirety of a student’s time at AUC and offer a listening ear, or provide information on how to access further health and financial support within Amsterdam.

Poster in the second-floor bathroom at the AB

Some students expressed that they backed out from the process of reaching out for professional mental health help due to a feeling of impossibility. Six students out of 12 respondents admitted that they did not understand the process, or did not know how to go about it. Two second-year students, Kama Wojtuszko and Manoela Rutigliano, voiced a need for procedures to be more “clear” and “straightforward”. Even though Peer Support provides an exhaustive mental health guide on their Instagram, available since August this year, a general lack of awareness persists amongst some students, hindering potential help for many.

Since long-term mental healthcare should be discussed with a general practitioner, AUC’s resources can only do so much, according to Van Berkle. “We’re not a mental healthcare institution, so that limits us in what we can do, both in legal terms and in terms of resources,” said Van Berkle. Ultimately, she recognizes systemic issues are out of their hands: “I wish I could change that,” she says.

Editor’s note: This news report is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.

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