Few contacts, lack of structure: corona weighs heavily on students’ minds

In mid-October, students listen to classical music in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.Image Guus Dubbelman / de Volkskrant

This is evident from a tour of de Volkskrant. There are no concrete figures, but the Netherlands Institute of Psychologists (NIP), the professional association for student psychologists, among others, sees an increase in the number of students who turn to student psychologists throughout the Netherlands.

Students have been struggling with mental problems for some time. ‘An estimated 20 percent of the students also suffered from corona,’ says Reinout Wiers, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He conducts research into mental problems among students and PhD candidates at the UvA. “That has only gotten worse since the start of the crisis.”

Introduction weeks

The academic year started with some freedom, although the introduction weeks continued only to a very limited extent. Since it became clear that students are also major spreaders of the virus, they have largely been condemned to their student rooms, where they have to follow their lectures online and limit their social contacts as much as possible. And as a result, many students suffer from motivation problems and complaints of depression or stress.

Ineke Leenders, student psychologist at Wageningen University (WUR), has also noticed this: ‘Especially with the opening of the academic year, we received an enormous influx of registrations. During the first lockdown, more students had already registered, but then many of them still thought: shrug it off, we’ll get through it. Many students now have a feeling of despondency and hopelessness. ‘ She continues: ‘It’s all hands on deck. Applications just keep coming. ‘

The crisis is particularly difficult for international students, says Leenders. ‘The loneliness among that group is great: many are alone in their room. Normally they are looking forward to the Christmas holidays, but they don’t know if they can go home at all this year. ‘ This is also evident from the UvA research. Professor Wiers: ‘Although the mental problems of students have increased across the board, this is one of the groups that stands out.’

Offer comfort

Caithlyn Tschi (22), chair of the psychology students section at NIP and psychology student at Erasmus University Rotterdam, sees around her that fellow students are struggling. ‘We are hearing more and more voices about this. Students are increasingly aware that corona will have a significant impact on our society for a long time to come. ‘

She also sees that the lack of social and physical contact plays tricks on them. ‘Students are more alone and making new contacts is missed. That has no pleasant effect on the mental state. It is no longer possible to study together for an exam, or to offer each other comfort in case of a bad grade.

Because of the online lectures, there is a lack of structure and variety, which also does not benefit the mental state. ‘Studying online is demotivating. Students roll out of bed 10 minutes before their lesson and the days are very similar. ‘ WUR psychologist Leenders: ‘Even though structure is just so important. If that disappears, it is an enormous risk factor for depressive complaints. ‘

That is why Tschi and her board members try to maintain a daily rhythm. ‘We video call every morning at nine, and we close the day at five. We try to keep up our spirits, even though we have already dealt with quite a few corona-related disappointments. For example, several events could not take place and the board members could not meet at the office. ‘This makes it sometimes difficult to keep looking ahead positively. But we benefit from each other. ‘

Also read

New life in corona buildings: studying with concert music and cycling in the nightclub
The lockdown is resourceful. Hotels, a nightclub and even the Concertgebouw are looking for people to fill the void, and find them through apps and their own contacts. Students, homeworkers and rocyclers appear to be happy with it. They study piano music, cycle in the Escape, or work in the tranquility of an almost empty hotel lobby.

Studying during a pandemic: with these tips, Netflix does not beat the study books