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A very personal story about mental health issues that Delta published recently, has led to many reactions. “There should be a student support group.”
Krishna Thiruvengadam hopes that his story will result in the establishment of a student support network at TU Delft. (Photo: TotalShape / Pixabay)

A very personal story about mental health issues that Delta published recently, has led to many reactions. “There should be a student support group.”

After talking about his personal mental health journey with Delta recently, Krishna Thiruvengadam was surprised to receive numerous emails of support from students, counsellors and administrators. Now he hopes the momentum generated by his story will result in the establishment of a student support network at TU Delft.

Talk about stress and other issues
Vice Rector Dr Robert Mudde was one of the people who reacted to the story. “I contacted Krishna to express my gratitude to him for stepping into the spotlight with his very personal story,” said Dr Mudde. “It is helpful that he did so as it is a move forward in creating a culture on campus where we can talk about stress and other issues that affect our students’ well-being. Some of our students feel pressure and stress beyond what can be expected of student life. Taking exams, for example, is by nature stressful. But students talk about much more, including the fear of missing out, pressure from having to build a great CV, pressure from having to graduate quickly, and having a student loan that is building up over the years. I take these feelings seriously. As a community we should address them and Krishna was very brave in setting the example.”

Inaccessibility of support systems
Thiruvengadam, who recently graduated with a Master of Industrial Design, said that one of the biggest challenges for students is the inaccessibility of support systems. Sometimes students don’t know what resources are available or when they do, waiting times to get help can be long. So, when he met Naveen Rajasekaran, a master’s student in Systems and Control, they discovered that sharing their similar experiences helped tremendously. Having experienced depression for a couple of years, Rajasekaran said he knew he couldn’t handle things on his own. But when he reached out to a psychologist for help, he didn’t receive a reply for four months. “We wouldn’t say that we’ve entirely overcome our situations, but we are feeling much better because we found each other,” Thiruvengadam said. “This is why we believe there should be a support group where students can access someone like a mentor. It doesn’t always have to be a professional.”

Establish a community of buddies, who have experienced mental health issues

Buddies
Despite having moved back to India, Thiruvengadam is working with Rajasekaran to try and bring life to this idea. They would like to see the establishment of a community of student volunteers, or buddies, who have experienced depression or mental health issues. These volunteers could act as a first line of support until help from a counsellor or psychologist can be arranged. Academic counsellor for 3mE Lourdes Gallastegui agrees that this would be a useful initiative. She said that counsellors often speak to both international and Dutch students dealing with depression and see a need for this type of support system. “Since it's a students’ initiative, it will foster their autonomy and sense of agency,” she said. “They can shape it according to the needs they identify, from their experiences with mental issues. It will be most useful for students who do not have a support network of their own and will provide a safe haven while they wait for treatment. Something half way between prevention and treatment.”

Action
Chair of Lijst Beta Charlotte Boersma also reached out to Thiruvengadam after reading his story. She said that the Central Student Council (Lijst Beta & ORAS) is taking the issue of student mental health very seriously. They are working closely with TU Delft Career & Counselling Services, which is currently involved in a number of initiatives around mental health. Thiruvengadam is happy to see that the university is taking action, but emphasised that he hopes the momentum continues. “My concern is that this should not take six more months to be implemented,” he said. “It has to be implemented, at whatever level, immediately.”

Interested in physical and mental well-being? From 6-11 January, check out X’s Health Week event, co-organised by TU Delft Career & Counselling.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, here is some information on how you can get help.

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