Student psychologists and the Wellbeing Movement against loneliness

In June 2020, the organisation Caring Universities distributed a questionnaire to all students from four universities (VU Amsterdam, Leiden University, Utrecht University and UM) to gauge their mental health and to offer them tools to work on their own mental wellbeing. In January 2021, the questionnaire was sent again; this time to all the students who had not responded last year and to all new first-year students. The questionnaire also addressed the theme of loneliness. Maastricht University’s approximately 1800 responses yielded the following results: in 2020, 32.7%  of those who responded indicated they were lonely often to very often; in 2021, it was 36.7%, more than 1 in 3 students and an increase of 10%. Additionally, 27.3% of those who reported loneliness described their feelings as serious to very serious in both questionnaires.

Together with her colleagues, Liesbeth Mouha, Student Wellbeing Project Leader and Wellbeing Movement Coordinator at UM, expected a large influx of students seeking help at the onset of the corona crisis. This didn’t materialise: ‘What we have noticed is that the issues that students had before the pandemic have been amplified. If they were lonely, they are even more so now. If they already had symptoms of depression or feelings of anxiety, now they are even worse.’

Liesbeth Mouha
Liesbeth Mouha, Student Wellbeing Project Leader and Wellbeing Movement Coordinator

Online

All contact with students is now online. How's that going? Mouha: ‘It turns out to work just fine. Right from the start of the pandemic, we started with both individual sessions and group workshops online, and students are happy with these. They are very open and honest even in wellbeing-related workshops with about 30 people. We have a lot of interest.’ Due to the corona crisis, the UM psychologists initiated daily online no-appointment-needed consultations, the Quick Psychological Referral (QPR). What is a QPR exactly? Mouha: ‘It is a ten-minute online conversation with a UM psychologist in which you give a short description of your current situation and you ask your most pressing questions. The psychologist discusses your situation with you and gives you advice on what you can do or refers you to where you can receive the type of care you need. For example, in the QPR you explain that you’re heartbroken and that this greatly hinders you in your daily activities, such as your education. The psychologist will refer you to Peer Support where you can speak at length with someone your own age, as a friend. If your request for help is more serious, the psychologist will refer you to a colleague or other organisation."

Wellbeing Evenings

Another initiative to help students feel less isolated are the Wellbeing Evenings. ‘We already had the annual Wellbeing Week and the monthly Wellbeing Wednesdays, but now we've added the Wellbeing Evenings. Several nights a month, students organise online activities for other students which provide opportunities to meet new people. There are baking workshops, speed-friending sessions and sports activities. The Wellbeing Evenings are very popular. Students alone decide the types of activities they want to organise and that is the key to the evenings’ success.’  

Advice

Based on her expertise and experience, Liesbeth Mouha gives the following advice: ‘If you feel lonely or have other problems, seek help. Talk to friends or fellow students, that's initially what you need.  But most of all, don't keep struggling on your own with what's bothering you. Reach out to other students. There is a wide range of activities, online and offline. You might have to look a little while to find something that suits you, but you'll always find something. It's important that you can talk with someone. And of course, the UM student psychologists’ doors are always open. Don't forget the online QPRs, they are a simple first step to easing your mind, and from there you can go further in the right direction.’   

  Here you can find out everything you need to know about the UM psychologists.

Text: Margot Krijnen

If you feel lonely or have other problems, seek help. Don't keep struggling on your own with what's bothering you. 
Liesbeth Mouha | Projectleider Student Wellbeing en coördinator Wellbeing Movement