It is 2022 and mental health is no longer an abstract concept that nobody understands. It is real, and it is important. Today, on World Mental Health Day, it is crucial to highlight how pertinent it is to understand mental health beyond conversations of therapy, psychiatry and medications.
Mental health is something that is intrinsically part of our daily lives.
As the entire world was grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the shockwaves created by the pandemic were all too real for numerous students at the Geneva Graduate Institute, many of whom moved here to many new “c’s” – a new college, a new city, a new country, and even a new continent. The ensuing lockdown and shift online meant that a huge part of what it meant for us to be human was taken away, and the beauty of our daily connections were replaced by a laptop screen in our own rooms and houses.
To combat the feelings of isolation and find solutions to the mental health damage from lockdown, the Welfare Committee, a specialised committee of the Graduate Institute Student Association, stepped in to help students.
We have a very specific mandate “…to promote the welfare, mental health and health of the students” by “…representing and advocating student interests to [the] Institute administration as it relates to health, mental health, student welfare and other related issues…”
Therefore, in order to ensure that student welfare was not compromised during those testing times, the Welfare Committee:
- Conducted online Zumba sessions twice a week;
- Started a buddy programme to help students buy groceries etc.;
- Organised online Netflix Party streaming sessions;
- Collaborated with the Graduate Press for students to share good news;
- Increased the number of free sessions with psychologists to five per semester;
More importantly, as we are coming to terms with a post-COVID world, we have taken a huge leap in the right direction by being able to talk about mental health more openly at the Institute than we did a year or two ago.
Regular conversations between the Institute’s Student Wellbeing and Support Services team, faculty members, and the Welfare Committee have shown how concerns and grievances faced by students are being perceived and acted upon very differently now.
For example, professors are now more willing to grant extensions to students who are struggling with their wellbeing. It may not sound like a lot but the mere acceptance and cognizance of the existence of mental health concerns shows how student advocacy from GISA, the Welfare Committee, and other initiatives has resulted in a monumental institutional shift.
We continue to improve welfare within our student community through activities like:
• Zumba, Bollywood dance, and yoga workshops;
• Distribution of free pizza and lemonade / tea / hot chocolate during exams;
• Sessions on stress management and student welfare and health resources;
• Make the campus more disabled-friendly;
• Partner with Career Services to make small jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking more accessible;
• Organise an open dialogue forum for all students to make GISA more accessible;
• Improve the newly implemented Code of Conduct & Implementation Guidelines.
If you would like to learn more about the Welfare Committee, their mission and current projects, please visit their page.