Seeking help as a student, when struggling with mental issues, even if it is just the experience of loneliness, is often hard. For international students there might even be bigger obstacles. The foreign language may seem like a big complication, but Charlotte Lie, acting head of SPH explains that she never experienced any problems in consultation with international students.
The Corona situation causes increased need for counselling, according to Lie. In the current situation, with a lot of teaching and meetings being online, students find it hard to cope with their studies.
– Especially international students find it extra hard and experience their structure falling apart. Some did not have the time yet to form a network of friends and feel more alone, Lie says.
As the Studentenes helse og trivselsundersøkelse – SHoT (Students’ health and well-being survey), which was published in autumn 2018 showed – almost one in three Norwegian students often or very often experienced loneliness. The survey also showed that 29% of students in Norway had a mental issue and 61% of those with a serious mental health illness did not seek help.
Counselling during Corona
Sammen as the welfare organization for students in Bergen offers health care services for all students, including international students. The services are provided free of charge for all institutions who accept international students. The only exception is for PhD students, who get a payment and therefore are not inclined to all services free of charge.
One big part of Sammen’s services is mental health care. The compartment for student mental health services (Studentenes Psykiske Helsetjeneste – SPH) has eleven clinical psychologists and four counselors, who help when students have difficulties coping with their studies.
The easiest and fastest way to get an appointment with a psychologist or counselor is to come directly to the department for mental health, which is situated in the Student Center.
– Just come to the reception and ask the receptionist, she also speaks English. You only have to provide some basic information to see if it is best to see a counselor or a psychologist and we will send you a text message with your appointment date. Of course, calling the reception to get an appointment is also an easy option. And if somebody is quarantined, which can be an extra challenging situation, we also provide video or phone consultation, Lie explains.
It is also important to know that none of the information will go into your health record, irrespective of how these situations are handled in your home country.
– We have an oath of confidence and only ask for a next of kin, we could call in an emergency. But I never had to call a next of kin in all the 16 years I’ve worked here. We are not a part of other Sammen Health care parts, but also not connected to any other health care parts, including the public health service, which means that no information is shared with anyone.