In April the Youth Development Working Group (YDWG) will organize AEGEE’s first European School on Mental Health in Valencia. This is just one of many activities of the YDWG regarding this topic in 2019. Working group member Desireé van Langen told the Golden Times why this is such an important topic for AEGEE and what kind of other activities you can expect this year.

Desireé Van Langen

Golden Times: Mental health became one of the major topics of this year’s Action Agenda. Why did your Working Group choose the topic?
Desireé van Langen: The topic of mental health was the idea of the participants during the drafting sessions in EPM Yerevan in 2018. Many topics were mentioned and in the end of the drafting process, this was one of the topics, which got the most votes – together with career oriented activities, job opportunities and the materials database. Even though I did not choose the topic myself, I am happy that we started working on Mental Health in AEGEE. More and more young people are struggling with their mental health and there is a big increase of young people with a burnout for example.

GT: Mental health is also very broad. What aspects are you focussing on?
Desireé: I totally agree! For now, we started working on the topic so we mainly focus on what is mental health, stigma reduction and the promotion of positive mental health. Mental health refers to your overall psychological well-being and there are many things you can do yourself in order to increase this.

GT: What kind of activities is your WG planning in this respect?
Desireé: During our action month in February, we posted daily tasks in our Facebook event in order to relax or influence mental health in a positive way. Furthermore we are working together with Euro Youth Mental Health, the AEGEE-Academy and AEGEE-Valencia on having the first ever Mental Health European School. Furthermore, we launched the Mental Health Guide, written by Maia Khositashvili, a PHD candidate in Psychology, and Taka Jananashivili, who holds an MA in Psychology. We will continue to share and promote this booklet. We are also working together with EFPSA and our own Mental Health Taskforce to work on workshop materials for trainers. Last but not least we have a Mental Health TRAINing interrail trip planned during the SU period.

YDWG meeting in Brussels

GT: Have there been already been events?
Desireé: Yes! We had several session in our network on mental health awareness and burnout in Tartu and Barcelona. During RTC Tbilisi Maia and Tako gave a workshop on positive mental health.

GT: You mentioned the European School on Mental Health in Valencia in April. What will the main topics be? Who will be the trainers?
Desireé: During the MHES, our participants will of course learn what mental health is, why it is important and how to deal with mental health in their daily life. Next to that we will look into what self-care is and how to apply it. By the end of the event our participants will know more about tackling emotions in a healthy way and they will know how to respond when someone in their surroundings is having a difficult time. Irina Buruiana, who is also a psychologist, from Euro Youth Mental Health, will be a trainer and I will be assisting her as a trainers’ manager.

GT: A European School also has the idea of educating people to be multipliers. In what way is this the case with the European School on Mental Health?
Desireé: Awareness and reducing stigma are really important in our daily lives! And participants will also learn methods for themselves and others. Mental Health is of course a really personal topic but tips and tricks can be useful for everyone.

GT: You also mentioned the AEGEE Mental Health Guide. What is it about? How can it help AEGEE members both in AEGEE work and in private life?
Desireé: We published the Mental Health Guide in order to have a lot of information on mental health together in one booklet. It explains mental health, symptoms and it includes exercises and tips, which people can use both in their private and AEGEE life.

GT: How was the guide created? Are the authors Maia Khositashvili and Tamar Jananashvili actually AEGEE members?
Desireé: Timon, one of the YDWG members, met Maia at a conference and they started talking about AEGEE and mental health in general and voila, now we have a Mental Health Guide! Maia and Tako are not AEGEE members and they wrote the guide on a voluntary basis, because they want to show the importance of mental health to young people and promote positive mental health.

GT: That’s really amazing! Anything you would like to add?
Desireé: We enjoy working on this topic and in case you or your local, SU or other group want to organise something on the topic of mental health: please contact us at ydwg@aegee.eu!

Workshop on mental health at the RTC in Tbilisi.

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