Statistics Netherlands (CBS) held a survey among young people aged 18 to 25 regarding their mental well-being. The study was based on five questions about their state of mind, including ‘Did you feel very nervous at some point in the past four weeks?’ and ‘Were you so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer you up?’ The results show that 10.9 percent of the 18-to-25-year-olds suffered from psychological complaints between 2015 and 2017. Ten years ago, this percentage stood at 8.8 percent.
This, in the words of CBS, ‘very modest’ increase is remarkable considering the alarming reports in the media of recent months. They painted the picture of a student body that was increasingly weighed down by anxiety, stress and gloom. According to researchers, these complaints were exacerbated by increased pressure to perform and the omnipresence of social media.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives asked the Minister to map out the mental health services currently provided to students in senior secondary VET, higher professional education and academic higher education as quickly as possible and set up a more accessible offer based on its inventory. Earlier this year, student organisations and other parties responded to the unsettling reports by launching a Plan of Action for Student Welfare.
‘As substantial as ever’
How do these measures fit in with the modest increase reported by CBS? The findings didn’t come as a surprise to Jolien Dopmeijer, researcher at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences and co-author of the aforementioned plan of action. “I’ve been studying this phenomenon since 2012 and haven’t observed a huge increase in this period either,” she remarks. “Let’s put it this way: the complaints are as substantial as ever.”
Ten years ago, students also struggled with high pressure of work. “We’ve introduced all sorts of measures in higher education to increase success rates, but barely gave a second thought to the students themselves. This is changing, and we’re now starting to see what impact these measures have on them. In other words, the pressure and complaints aren’t new – it’s a case of us paying more attention to them.”