Mental Health: Ways to Reach Out

When day comes, we ask ourselves where we can find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

– The hill we climb, Amanda Gorman

To be honest, it was tough for me to write a post about mental health. It is, for sure, not something that, in my culture, we can speak about out loud. Probably it is also similar to yours. It is no surprise; mental health has only been recently discussed in the early 20th century in most western countries.

Historically, this term is associated with a severe mental illness that requires medication and special treatment. Although this term becomes broader nowadays, it also includes our emotional and psychological and well-being, thus the way we behave and feel in general. To dig more information about this, I interviewed Raehana Saria Gahari, a master’s student of Food Technology from Indonesia who is very kind to share her experience in this blog.

Acknowledge your tipping point

When you are studying here (and it’s not easy), you are a thousand miles away from your family. In a strange time, you constantly look on a screen instead of experience it in real life. As a result, a feeling of disconnection could emerge and be quite overwhelming at some points. Raehana also admits that apart from the academic life, living in a new place for the first time and facing the language barrier is one of the things that stress her most. However, the most challenging step is to acknowledge these uneasy feelings and then reach out for professional help if needed. Unfortunately, people tend to mute their feelings and assume that everything will be ‘fine’ until it worsens.

Mental health matters (Hand vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com)

I keep remembering a line from Amanda Gorman during Joe Biden’s inauguration when I am writing this. Although the main message is specifically aimed at the American people, some of the sentences resonate with what I feel important when describing mental health. “A quiet isn’t always a peace”. Just because you don’t feel it doesn’t mean you have ‘stepped out’ from the dark. Similarly, at first, Raehana also ignored her feelings and believed that they will go away. Her tipping point is when she felt ‘burdened’ by those feelings and have no idea what to do. That is when she decided to reach out for professional help from student support on campus.

Then, where to start?

Our campus has provided students with a ‘student guidance’ programme (see image below). There are many options available depending on your situation and need.

Student Guidance: Find your way - WUR

Student guidance for mental health problems

Reach out to your Study adviser

In Raehana’s case, upon realising these uneasy feelings as a ‘problem’, she started to communicate her issue to her study adviser. Most of you might not know that you could also mention your ‘personal’ problems to your study adviser, a potential hindrance to your study plan. He/she will give you some advice on what you can at least contact to help to solve your problem.

Her adviser then suggested making an appointment with a psychologist or a student life coach. However, since there was a long waiting list on the student psychologist (in her case, three weeks of reservation list), she reached out to the student life coach as an alternative.

Psychologist or student life coach

As a student, you have five free consultation sessions with a psychologist, both online and offline. As for the student life coach, you can register yourself by sending an e-mail provided on the website. You will get an hour session online or even offline. The good news is the first three sessions are also free for students. So what are the differences between them? You can find more information on the website.

Student dean

Apart from the student coach, Raehana also talked to the student dean on campus. She first contacted the student dean by e-mailing the office. Then, the student dean reached out to her via a call to discuss her problem. From this discussion, the student dean arranged an on-campus appointment as he felt it was necessary to meet offline. There is a possibility of different arrangement depending on the discussion result, and yes, all process are also free. For information,  the student dean is mainly associated with things that might hinder academic life at a higher level. If you are curious, please check this link.

Finding the light

Raehana Saria Gahari, Master’s student of food technology 2020

After talking to them, Raehana personally felt relieved and ‘being heard’; the conversation helped lighten her situation and address her problem adequately. It gave her the strength to face her problem, and the courage to walk through everything. Although her problem is not completely resolved yet, she is optimistic that there is always a way to solve it. Great tips from Raehana for those who are currently struggling and a bit hesitant whether to reach out or not, “Let your hand do the work, don’t overthink! just do it!”

As you can see, it is not ‘technically’ hard to reach out for professional help when you are having mental health problems. Especially when you are studying in a university where they really concern about the student’s condition (Thanks, WUR!). I would like to end this blog with another quote from Amanda Gorman as an encouragement for all of you. Hopefully, you will still be able to find a ‘light’ when you needed most.

For there is always light if only we are brave enough to see it.
If only we are brave enough to be it”

Special thanks to Raehana Saria Gahari for her time and willingness to share this :-).

Linda Widiachristy

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