Students grateful for crumbs from the mental health services table

I first booked a time for service need assessment through the Finnish Student Health Service’s (FSHS’s) SelfChat service at the end of 2019. Back then, I had no idea how grateful I would be for the timing just a few months later.

I saw a nurse in December and a doctor in January. The first time-slot with a psychologist was in early April. I found the slow progression along the treatment path laughable at the beginning of the year, but was satisfied with the times offered, which were for longer-term, not emergency, issues.

Then came March. The world changed, and so did I – the move to distance work and loss of familiar routines quickly affected my condition, placing me in urgent need of help. My appointment with a psychologist in April became a lifeline for me, light at the end of the tunnel which enabled me to tough it out during the difficult last weeks of March.

Of course, I attended my spring sessions with the psychologist by video, from my bedroom. I’m sure that, sometime this year, everyone has found that video is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, but it is better than nothing.

A laptop camera may be inadequate at conveying body language, but at least it conveys something. Discussing problems is still just that, even if it’s done remotely.

So I was grateful to receive help despite the situation — several of my non-student friends were left stranded in the spring, because the coronavirus blocked access to one kind of help or another. I had four remote interviews with a psychologist during the spring, and would probably have been given an extra session or two if necessary.

However, I was most grateful to be given a genuinely face-to-face meeting with a psychologist in July. After each session, my psychologist now asks me whether I want to meet remotely next time, or visit in person. Each time I’ve replied, without hesitation, that I’d like to drop by.

One good aspect of this exceptional year has been: due to the exceptional situation, obtaining a B-certificate for Kela-funded rehabilitation psychotherapy required just one visit to a psychiatrist instead of the usual two.

Gaining access to Kela-funded psychotherapy is a very complex process. Even some relief from this is a big win. However, celebrating victory in this regard feels as bittersweet as Kela’s softening of its stance on social assistance for students in the spring. Students continuously have to feel grateful for issues that should have been in place already.

After issuance of the B-certificate, a separate therapy application must be submitted and a therapist found. The difficulty of finding therapists has been discussed in the media. Attention has been drawn to the exhausting nature of the process and the shortage of therapists in Finland. Based on my own experience, I can fully sign up to these issues.

Getting treatment is about luck. If you are in good, or even just tolerable, condition, you can post chat messages to FSHS or even Nyyti ry. This is not so easy if you have severe depression. To be eligible for Kela-funded therapy, you have to be in bad enough shape, but not too bad. Too impersonal an email sent to therapists will disappear in the mass of messages. Not all locations even have therapy times available for booking.

When booking psychotherapy appointments, I am now painfully aware of how lucky I am. Let me express my gratitude, once again, for something that should have been in order all along.

 

Roosa Ylikoski

Sosiaalipolitiikka ja kulttuuri | Social politics and Culture
Itä-Suomen yliopiston ylioppilaskunta | Student Union of the University of Eastern Finland

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