How to Recognize Anxiety, Depression and Other Mental Health Problems in Students
Academic and support staff at Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences attended the first of a series of workshops on Friday, equipping them to deal with and steer students with psychological problems to get the appropriate help.
The workshop was led by Marga Jonkman, a Dutch psychologist with 12 years of experience who specializes in adolescent psychology. She talked about a range of problems – from depression to performance anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ADHD, dyslexia, the autism range and anorexia.
Staff had lots of questions about identifying mental health problems in students, what to do about it and when to seek professional help. Wittenborg CEO, Maggie Feng, said Wittenborg does have a policy on the matter which is also contained in the institution’s Education and Examination Guide (EEG) which is made available to enrolled students.
All international students in the Netherlands are required to have at least basic health insurance. Students are normally advised to see a general practitioner (GP) first who will refer them if they need professional health.
One pertinent question that kept coming up was how to recognize “normal” anxiety - such as adapting to a new country, its climate, people, being away from family and friends, fear of failure or fear of presentation – as oppose to a serious problem that needs professional intervention.
Jonkman said deciding what to do depends on the impact of the problem on the student’s life or his or her academic performance. “A really depressed youth is very hard to treat. Symptoms to look out for is when a student for instance skip lessons, depression, not wanting to get out of bed and – in the case of PTSD – getting angry quickly, nightmares, low concentration levels and a lengthy period of depression.”
The issue of students spending too much time on their phones, binge-watching TV-series’ or gaming also came up. More than one teacher recalled having a student who was watching so much TV or gaming into the early hours of the morning, that they could barely stay awake in class the next day.
Jonkman advised to just listen to a student who might have problems and then estimate how serious it is before acting or seeking help. “Don’t tell your own story or offer a quick solution or opinion.”
Jonkman will follow up in the autumn with another workshop tailored to Wittenborg-specific cases.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press