Taking Care of your Mental Health in Holland

How do you take care of your mental health whilst being in a new country? Our student ambassador Karla Duarte wrote a blog about how to identify and deal with the most common mental health problems.

Posted by Karla Duarte at Sep 18, 2019 03:00 PM

Going to live and study in Holland, as in any international environment, always comes with many challenges that we all face at some point. The main challenges are the language barrier, cultural differences, connecting with others, missing your family and perhaps also the delicious typical food from home.

However, it is not so common to stop and think specifically about how to take care of our mental health in this new country, to know how to identify if we are at risk, and to know which resources are available to help us if we need it.

Blog Karla Duarte

Don't ignore what you are feeling

Knowing when we need help is essential. Often, students ignore what they are feeling because academic responsibilities "must be met first." While it is true that Holland is a country with one of the best educational systems in the world and the academic demand is high, this does not mean that you should neglect your needs to meet the standards. In fact, you will be able to manage your responsibilities better if you attend to your needs.

Anxiety and depression

The most common mental health problems among college students are anxiety and depression. Their main symptoms are unrealistic fears or excessive worries, such as thinking you’ll fail your career because you don’t understand a topic, difficulty concentrating because you go over and over about something that concerns you, and avoidance of social situations that may cause anxiety, like a party full of new people.

Depression often manifests itself through constant fatigue that isn’t caused by physical activities or health conditions, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, irritability, negative thoughts, and loss of interest on things you used to enjoy doing, such as reading, listening to music or exercising.

Professional help

If you ever identify any or several of these symptoms in yourself it is important to seek help from a professional. It is very likely that your university has a section on its website related to mental health, where you can find information on how to make an appointment with a psychologist and obtain general ideas about the process, its confidentiality, and its importance. You can also go to a practitioner through your Health Insurance. This information can be found in the insurance policy. In case it does not say “psychologist”, you can start off by going to a General Practitioner who will redirect you or explain your options.

Another alternative is going to a psychologist who has a private practice, and you can even find one that speaks your native language! A simple internet search for “Spanish/Portuguese/French speaking psychologists near me” can get you a long way.

Additionally, you can use the International Therapist Directory, where you can select your city and many options will come up, or you can contact PsyQ International Mental Health Services, where they focus on expats’ experience. If you ever feel like you are in high emotional distress, call the nationwide suicide prevention line (113) to be connected with a specialist and receive emergency assistance.

Create connections

One of the main keys to staying mentally healthy is to create connections with other people who share interests with you. When I started studying here I realized the large number of student groups that universities offer for students. This is greatly important because having a support network means you have people you can call if you feel alone, if you want to go for coffee, if you want to study or go out to explore the beautiful cities of Holland.

Usually, during introduction days you can find the student organizations’ fair and consider which ones you want to join. This is one of the things I liked most about Holland! Universities and students do their best to integrate you into their culture and connect you with others.

Remember, needing help is OK, and taking care of yourself will make your experience in Holland one of the most memorable and successful moments of your life!

Posted by Karla Duarte at Sep 18, 2019 03:00 PM