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There is no university student who never worries about what is next, what is going to happen if the exam period does not turn out good, if he does not have enough credits, if he does not get on well with one of his lecturers or just does not find his place in the world. There are students who do not need help in these situations, but there are others who do. There are students who would really need some help but do not know where to go, who to call. Or maybe, they just do not want to call anyone because they think they are able to deal with it. I was in that kind of situation, too. I was not sure whether I was at the right place, but fortunately I found my way out. However, it could be easier with a little help. I had a conversation with Dr Amaryl Árkovits, chief medical officer of the PTE KK Psychiatric Center and chairman of the S.O.S. Phone Service Against Suicide.
Dear Amaryl, is it typical that students visit a professional when they need help?
In my opinion for a student it is not easier to ask for help than it is for anybody else. It only depends on that particular person. There are times when more people look for that type of help and there are also periods when less people need professional help. There were times when going to a psychiatrist was not something you would tell anybody but nowadays it is not a taboo anymore. There are plenty of articles about this issue. Besides, there are other difficulties because many students do not have constant address at Pécs so they are unable to visit someone for free. Of course if the doctors have spare time they see those who do not have a stationary address in the city. At PTE there is a program called Khairosz in the framework of which students can go to a free guidance. To make it more comfortable, every single faculty has its own psychologist. Therapy is not an easy thing, this process can last for weeks, months or years. We often see students who chose to see a private practice, fortunately Pécs has several places to go if you think it necessary.
Which terms are the most hectic?
The exam period, for sure! During this time young adults are the most likely to struggle with stress, to feel fluttered because they want to meet the expectations. The other quite busy period is the beginning of the semester.
Is there a faculty from where a bigger amount of people ask for help or it depends only on the individual?
To be honest, it is only up to the person. In our experiences it is not typical that a greater number of people come from a certain faculty, It may happen only if people share the information with each other within a faculty. Although, there are some majors which requires a stronger personality to be able to graduate in time because of the pressure, the stress and the expectations but as I already said it mostly depends on the individual.
What kind of problems can the beginning of a semester or an exam period cause?
The most common problem is moving away from the family at the beginning of the first semester, when freshmen start their university studies. During the first weeks young adults realize that it is their job now to keep their flat or dorm room nice and tidy, to buy household supplies that they took for granted at home, because their parents took care of it. Their mom will not ask them what they want to have for dinner, they have to take care of themselves and start an independent, adult life. There are a lot more challenges, of course. A lot of students move to a completely different city, where they know no one. In this situation they have to build new relationships, they have to establish a new group of friends. Freshmen camp is a great opportunity to start, but not everyone is able to go there.
As I have mentioned, the exam period is stressful for everyone. Probably it would be easier if students prepared from lecture to lecture, but even if they do so, they cannot avoid all the stress and tiredness, and of course most of them do not prepare from lecture to lecture. At the university there are a lot of changes in people’s life, they have to study differently than they did in high school, they have to read a lot more, and they have to schedule everything for themselves. It is important to know their own limits, but this is the first time they face these limits and that is why the first couple of weeks are really difficult to get through.
Is there something that they can do to avoid problems?
There will always be problems! We should not avoid problems, but face them and overcome them. The ability of handling difficult situations is different for everybody, but you can improve these skills. Not necessarily with therapy, because the relationships we develop, our friends and partners can all help, or cause problems, too. Young adulthood is the time when we start a life independent from the family, and develop our autonomy. This process is called developmental crisis and it can last for years, but we all have to overcome it to find our place in the world, to develop our own identity and to get answers for questions like “Who I am?”. During this period, as well as in the case of any other developmental crises, we are emotionally more vulnerable. We might experience crisis, or get into such a psychological state when our emotional balance is so overwhelmed, that we might ask for external help. The situations that might cause crisis depends on the person himself. It can be a failed relationship, a breakup, or even an unsuccessful exam. It is universal, though, that these crises are the price we pay for our personal development, and if we use all the possibilities to improve and change during a crisis, we will become psychologically stronger and more mature after the crisis. During a crisis you do not have to seek professional help immediately. This is what friends and family are for: to talk about problems, give advice and support. Although, if someone does not have such intimate relationships and cannot overcome the crisis alone, or has suicidal thoughts, it would be a good idea to ask for help. The S.O.S. ÉLET Phone Service is a psychological aid service in Pécs which has been working since 1975, where professionally trained volunteers answer the calls from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. It is a toll free number (80-505-390), callers can keep their anonymity, and secrecy is provided as well.
S.O.S Phone Service
The 40 years old Phone service has been giving psychological first aid since 1975. According to statistics, in 2014 we received 1436 calls, and a quarter of these calls were “crisis calls”, in which the features of cry for help communication were obvious. The statistics of the Service shows that the number of callers under the age of 25 has significantly increased therefore we pay more attention to emphasize the importance of the youth’s mental hygiene.
It is often the first place where callers talk about their new problems, for which at the time there may not be any solutions. By solving the crisis in a creative way not only eliminates the dangers of inadequate solutions (suicide, alcohol, drugs, other psychiatric problems), but the person also becomes richer with new problem-solving skills and becomes more mature, more complete.
The Service can be called every day from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., toll free in all of Hungary and Europe. The Service provides aid to callers, regardless sex, age, and nationality.
S.O.S. ÉLET PHONE SERVICE IS AVAILABLE EVERYDAY FROM 7 P.M. TO 7 A.M. AT THE FOLLOWING NUMBERS: 06-80-505-390, 116-123
Attila Horváth, UnivPécs International