18 December 2018
Students going the extra mile

Feel free to share worries with peers

Stress at school, fights at home, feelings of melancholy, relationship problems—these are all things that many young people have to deal with sometimes. Talking about it helps, but there is not always someone around with whom you can talk. The volunteers of @ease—mostly students—offer a listening ear to young people between ages 12 and 25. “We only let someone leave when the conversation is wrapped up in a good way.”

Complementing each other

Two volunteers are always present during each conversation. “That way, we can complement each other; that's nice”, says Lion. “We first start with an introduction and talk about what the young person can expect. Then, we listen to his or her story and ask questions if necessary. The intention of @ease is that we can help quickly, so that we prevent someone from ending up in a long-term care process. But sometimes their situations are pretty intense. That’s why there is always a professional, such as a psychologist, at @ease who we can fall back on in such a case.”

If there is a really strong need, @ease can refer someone to the crisis service, but otherwise the volunteers only give advice, for example to go to a general practitioner. “The concept meets a need”, says Lion. “Since it started in 2017, more than a hundred young people have visited us. Through our website, flyers at schools and other promotional activities, we try to make @ease even more well-known.”
 

English speakers

@ease Maastricht has around 40 volunteers who are up to about 30 years in age. In order to do their job well, they receive a two-day training from a psychologist. They learn conversation techniques and practice what to do in difficult situations. Lion: “Since recently, we also have some English-speaking employees. That’s great, because there are quite a few international students. They don’t know where else they can go with their problems. There is a student psychologist at the university, but the waiting time is long.” UM is aware of this and is working to shorten the waiting time.

Lion found her first conversation with a young person at @ease a bit nerve-wracking. “But it quickly started flowing naturally. Because you’re with peers, the atmosphere is relaxed and you’re soon put at ease. When it’s finished, I can also let it go. This is also because we always wrap up a conversation in a good way. As long as it doesn’t feel right, we won’t let someone leave."

Text: Meyke Houben
Photography: Martijn Weyenberg

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Students of @ease