How connection and community boosts mental health
With 1 out of every 4 people experiencing mental health challenges, opening the conversation and seeking support is vital. Read on to learn about how community and connection can seriously boost mental health – and how to seek support if you need it.
Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It’s influenced by so many factors such as our past experiences, our upbringing, environment, and lifestyle – all of which influence how we perceive the world, how we behave, how we make decisions, and how we connect with others.
Chances are many people you know have struggled with or are struggling with their mental health. You might even be struggling yourself. If you are, you aren’t alone - the World Health Organisation estimates that 1 out of every 4 people will experience poor mental health at some point in their lives.
1. Overcoming the stigma
Mental health challenges are more common than you might think. Big life changes - like moving to a new city, starting or ending relationships, or losing people close to us - can all have profound impacts on mental wellbeing.
What makes dealing with those challenges even trickier is the stigma that surrounds poor mental health, which leaves people feeling vulnerable and alone, unable to reach out to others out of fear or embarrassment. We get it – reaching out isn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s important. And it’s important that we do all we can to challenge the stigma and open the conversation.
2. The power of community
We’re the first student accommodation provider to offer free mental health support, and we’re proud of it. It’s a no-brainer, really - being a student abroad can be challenging and overwhelming at times, and poor mental health will not only dampen your experience, it can also leave you feeling isolated, and can affect your sleep and academic performance.
“One of the biggest challenges that I [had] was adjusting to living in the Netherlands… far from everything that was familiar for me, far from my family and my friends,” says student, Ana Maria. “I recall feeling lonely and overwhelmed, but negative emotions that faded away as I started receiving support from others that were facing the same challenges.”
By providing this support, we can normalise talking about mental health and sharing our experiences with one another in our community, which is the beating heart of TSH. Adds Ana Maria: “To this day I strongly believe that what helped me keep my mental health in normal parameters throughout my studies are the new people that I met here and that became my friends.”
3. The power of connection and finding common ground
Spending time with like-minded people can greatly reduce the risk of mental illnesses, stress, and isolation. “Connecting with open-minded and open-hearted individuals has given me a sense of purpose when I felt lost, has helped me develop a stronger sense of self-confidence, and has opened up unique opportunities I would never imagine having,” says Ana.
Being part of a community and working through challenges with a key support network also provides valuable opportunity for growth. You can learn about what drives you, what you’re passionate about and different techniques to help you handle feelings of stress or pressure.
Student, Dylan, says that the TSH international community lends itself to a collective acceptance and understanding of different perspectives. “Connecting with others is a big part of my life… I believe that connecting with others allows us to radically change our emotional intellect, which to me is a very undervalued aspect of personal growth.”
4. Reaching out for professional support
Having a close-knit community around you is great, but there may be times when you might need a little more support. We recognise how much work there is to be done in normalising seeking mental health support – as the saying goes: be the change you want to see. So, we’ve partnered up with OpenUp, an Amsterdam-based psychological support service, to offer free, unlimited online mental health support to our students and staff.
This pilot service is currently open to TSH students and staff, with plans to extend the service to all members of our community. Think of the OpenUp psychologists as personal trainers for your mind - they are there to help you process your thoughts and concerns, and help you find techniques to manage them in a healthy way.
So, if you answered ‘yes’ to any of the below, it might be time to reach out to someone from the OpenUp team for support.
- You experience or have recently experienced symptoms of mental illnesses such as depressive periods or anxiety
- You just experienced something intense or significant and need someone external to share this with or talk it through
- A significant event or experience is coming up and you would like assistance in preparing for it
- You feel like things such as your sleep or self-confidence need improvement and you would like some support to work on them
- You feel you need some assistance with goal-setting and a pathway to achieving those goals.
One thing you may have noticed is that many of the above reasons don’t necessarily involve depressive or anxious episodes. That’s because everyone handles their mental health in different ways, and you don’t need to be feeling and looking depressed to reap the positive effects of professional support. If you need help handling a stressful time, an upcoming challenge, or want some guidance to work out a goal, the team at OpenUp can help.