Student melancholy and various mental health problems are unfortunately common. What makes the situation particularly challenging is that a person with a mental health problem may not themselves recognize their problem and need for help. And even if you recognize, a low-spirited student may cover up their problems and retreat to their shell, so that in the worst cases the information about the need for help is not passed on to potential helpers. The Healthy Mind project, launched by the Association of the Economic Students in Turku (TuKY), aims to lower the threshold for addressing mental health problems, especially among peer students.
At the end of 2020, the Ministry of Education and Culture granted a special grant to the welfare services of the University of Turku to support the well-being of students. Part of this grant will be used to develop the Turku School of Economics’ own teaching activities. The Turku School of Economics has had a system in place for many years, in which each student is assigned a teacher tutor with whom he or she can be in contact in matters related to studies or their graduation. As concerns about student melancholy have grown in recent years, the Turku School of Economics’ teacher tutor activities have been developed with the help of a special grant so that teacher tutors have better ability to identify and face problems with their students’ mental health in the future.
The aim of the project is to train as many of the Turku School of Economics’ teacher tutors and other staff members as possible to meet students who are not feeling well. Ideally, such a large proportion of the university staff would be trained to deal with mental health problems that a student who is not feeling well would always be identified through some everyday contact and thus be guided to appropriate assistance. Not all students feel melancholy during their studies, but it is a good idea to include expert support related to mental health in the safety net of all students. Therefore, our project will benefit all of our 2,700 actively studying bachelor’s or master’s degree students.
At the Turku School of Economics, peer support and education for students in accordance with the Healthy Mind project has already become an established part of the activities. Now, with the help of project funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture, teacher tutors and other members of the Turku School of Economics staff are offered the opportunity to participate in MTEA2 training, which increases knowledge about the most common mental disorders and provides skills to guide students to seek help. Each student at the Turku School of Economics will be assigned a teacher tutor during the first year of studies, when the student has chosen their specialization and made a personal study plan. There are currently 50 teacher tutors by subject and thus it is possible to form a support network covering all students.
Active support to lower the threshold for people to openly discuss and improve their mental health are valuable in any organization. Providing structures and peer support among students is an efficient way to make sure support is available widely to anyone who needs support. This Planet Act scales in all types of organizations, but requires investments to training.