According to general practitioner Cees Jansen, who sees a lot of students during his consulting hours, problems concerning mental issues have been prevalent for years. ‘Yet I am shocked by the research. It confirms how vigorous the issue is.’ The corona crisis worked as a catalysator for existing problems, says Jansen. ‘I visited students’ rooms throughout the lockdown. That is a tragic occurrence. They were all alone.’
‘Very disturbing’, that is what the government calls the outcome of the nationwide research of the Trimbos-Institute, the RIVM and the GGD. For the study, 28 thousand students at colleges and universities were interviewed in the spring about their wellbeing and substance usage. The Netherlands was still in a strict lockdown at that moment. The results: Students were suffering from stress, experienced problems with sleeping and were fatigued with life. In addition, they drank and blowed a lot.
A lot of students come by Jansen’s physician office with so-called psychosomatic complaints, which are insufficiently able or not at all able to be related to a physical illness. ‘The students tell me that they are fatigued or cannot concentrate. We always examine their blood in order to exclude physical illnesses, but usually without results.’
According to the general practitioner, the complaints are most importantly caused by a lack of support or by feelings of loneliness. The nationwide statistics on the feeling of being fatigued of life are recognisable to Jansen. ‘I can see it in the office.’
Next to the corona crisis, the increased pressure to perform, the shortage of housing and the increasing number of international students play a part as well, Jansen points out. ‘Meanwhile, a lot of my consults are with international students. With them, the problems are usually bigger and more complicated. I brought it to light more often already, even though I certainly do not want to pass the blame to international students. The university wants to increase internationalization, but pays too little attention to the impact of this change.’
Not all students need direct professional psychic help or medicines, Jansen points out. ‘I try to explain to them that negative feelings and feelings of fear are part of life. For this group of students, it is important to find like-minded people. Handling feelings of fear and depression are actually the same as the process of grief. There is a group, however, that really gets stuck and cannot cope with just these pieces of advice. We are always there for them.’