Student’s mental health has been a hot topic for a while now due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuously worsening situation regarding the well-being of Finnish higher education students. Nyyti Ry is a Finnish association supported by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health focusing on the well-being of students and organizing Students’ Mental Health Day annually. This year the campaign around Students’ Mental Health Day revolves around help. We are all worthy of being helped even though it can be difficult to prioritize one’s own well-being when a lot is going on around us in the world and one’s worries may seem small compared to them. By taking part in Nyyti’s campaign, TAYK wants to raise awareness on mental health issues and encourages everyone to take care of themselves and the people close to them as well as aims towards a more free and open discussion about mental health issues and experiences around the theme.
The United Nations has called for action on mental health already at the beginning of the pandemic. According to the UN’s policy brief “COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health” (2020) good mental health is crucial to the functioning of societies. Therefore, for individuals taking care of one’s mental health should be a top priority, too. Good mental health keeps us motivated and helps us believe in ourselves and in our goals as well as gives us hope during unusual times, like the ones we’re living through right now. Moreover, the UN’s policy brief reminds us about the emotional difficulties of people that are exacerbated by social isolation, disrupted education and uncertainty about their futures. As important as it is to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, social distancing can cause feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety in anyone even if these feelings were otherwise new and unfamiliar. Symptoms such as the ones mentioned above should be taken as seriously as COVID-19 or any other illness and treated according to them, without shame whatsoever.
Recent research has shown that at the moment Finnish students suffer especially from feelings of loneliness, exhaustion and stress. Stress is caused, for example, by worry about financial well-being and uncertainty about both the present and the future. According to a survey deducted by the University of Helsinki, sixty percent of students at the University of Helsinki declare being fully exhausted or at the risk of becoming fatigued and exhausted in their studies (Salmela-Aro & Peltonen, 2020). According to Yle, students in Tampere University have felt feelings of insufficiency and meaninglessness more than ever before (Ihalainen, 2020) Ylioppilaslehti-newspaper states that symptoms like these have become more severe during online learning and social distancing (Paananen et al. 2021). The message is clear: Students are in need of help more than ever before.
Even though mental health issues aren’t necessarily considered a taboo in Finland anymore, especially among young people, one may still feel anxious and scared to open up about their thoughts and emotions. The reasons vary, but nevertheless are shared by many of us. Being scared of judgement, reactions from our closed ones, prejudice or the downplay of our feelings are only a few of the reasons why it can be difficult to share experiences about mental health. However, through sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings with other human beings we often notice a weight being lifted from our shoulders. It feels relieving to know we’re not alone with our thoughts. Through sharing our experiences we give ourselves the chance to relieve pain and encourage others to do the same.
According to the website of Nyyti Ry, the goal in the Students’ Mental Health Campaign of the year is to provoke conversation and encourage everyone to support mental well-being (Nyyti Ry 2021). Nyyti reminds us that we’re all in need of help and support sometimes – and there’s nothing to be ashamed of about it. Especially after the events of the previous year, in my opinion it is time to be open about the diversified challenges students are facing at the moment. Change is possible only through action. Collectively we can raise awareness on mental health and mental well-being and tear down barriers that prevent us from seeking the help we are worthy of.
Students’ Mental Health Day is celebrated this year on April 22nd. To read more about Students’ Mental Health day campaign, visit Nyyti Ry’s web page (nyyti.fi). In addition to that, TAYK has also taken a step towards encouraging students and other people to seek help and share their experiences through collecting anonymous stories about mental health related issues. The stories can be found on TAYK’s Instagram account (@tayk_ry).
The writer is TAYK’s Publicist and External Relations Coordinator for the term 2021 and a student of social sciences at Tampere University.
Helpful links if You are seeking help online. You are worthy of help.
Ihalainen, S (22.11.2020) Tulevaisuuden lääkärit, opettajat ja toimittajat ovat uupumuksen partaalla – näin etäopiskelu Tampereen yliopistossa sujuu. Yle. From: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11658730 Read 17.4.2021
Nyyti Ry. N.d. “#HelpWorthy – Students’ Mental Health Day 2021.” From: https://www.nyyti.fi/en/mielenterveyspaiva/. Read 16.4.2021
Paananen, K.; Uusheimo, T.; Somerpuro, V. ( 5.3.2021) Kyynisyys ja uupumus lisääntyneet etäopintojen aikana – Helsingin yliopisto pyrkii lisäämään syksyllä lähiopetusta, vaikka rokotekattavuus olisi riittämätön. Ylioppilaslehti. From: https://ylioppilaslehti.fi/2021/03/kyynisyys-ja-uupumus-lisaantyneet-etaopintojen-aikana-helsingin-yliopisto-pyrkii-lisaamaan-syksyksi-lahiopetusta-vaikka-rokotekattavuus-olisi-riittamaton/ Read 18.4.2021
Salmela-Aro, K. & Peltonen, M. (17.12.2020) Yliopisto-opiskelijoiden hyvinvointi jatkaa laskua. University of Helsinki. From: https://www2.helsinki.fi/fi/uutiset/opetus-ja-opiskelu-yliopistossa/yliopisto-opiskelijoiden-hyvinvointi-jatkaa-laskua Read 18.4.2021
The UN’s Policy Brief on Covid-19 and mental health (2020) [online research material] https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/un_policy_brief-covid_and_mental_health_final.pdf
Pictures and graphics by Nyyti Ry 2o21.