Student, get angry already – moderation does not solve the mental health crisis!


Today is Students’ Mental Health Day, with moderation selected as this year’s theme. Various parties encourage you to pause and reflect on ways in which you can increase moderation in your everyday life together with others. However, I encourage you to take to the barricades because today is another day to make some noise about students’ mental health!

The work for students’ mental health has been going on for a good long while now. I venture to ask whether Students’ Mental Health Day campaigns that place the responsibility for the mental health crisis on individuals instead of society actually promote students’ mental health. Last year, students were encouraged to practise self-compassion. Should we not rather encourage students to demand better? The students’ mental health crisis has become too large. It is not reasonable to expect the crisis to be solved by students simply changing their attitudes towards the excesses of life.

The students’ mental health crisis is genuinely alarming: According to the Finnish Student Health and Wellbeing Survey (KOTT 2021), one third of students suffer from anxiety or depression symptoms, while half experience mental strain. Demand for the FSHS’s mental health services doubled in 2022, but the foundation’s resources have not increased over the years to meet the need for its services. The options are to queue for short-term therapy or, if you are in a privileged position, seek help from private service providers. Students are easily left without support. However, we students are not looking for pity – we need action.

With action, I mean investments. Will we try to fix the situation now or wait to pay an even bigger bill later? The price of prevention is smaller than patching things up afterwards. In addition to money, the mental health crisis is costing human lives. It is impossible for students to pause and embrace moderation because they need to secure their subsistence. Society, on the other hand, cannot afford to slow down because it is looking at an exponentially growing price tag: According to the OECD’s estimates, we are already paying around 11 billion euros due to the illfare of people. It is crucial to ensure sufficient resources for the FSHS and other services that support students’ mental health. The mental health crisis cannot be solved with mental health walks alone.

Who would look after our interests if we do not do it ourselves, though. I encourage you to do at least the following:

  1. Contact parties that offer support and use services that support mental health! Your mental health matters just as much as your friend’s. If there is no demand for the services, it is likely that they will face cuts or even be discontinued. It is also valuable to get statistics on the number of people left without help. Many students do not even know that they can take a sick leave from studies if needed.
  2. Politicians have the power to distribute money! Contact the politician you voted for in the parliamentary elections and demand fairness for students. In addition to sufficient resources for mental health services, mental health can be improved by changing the structures. Securing students’ subsistence supports mental health.
  3. You can help as part of the student movement’s united front. Join us for mental health walks on the barricades! Let’s work together to ensure that the student movement does not keep quiet about societal problems. Individuals are not to blame for unfair societal structures. However, individuals can influence society!

We have told decision-makers about our parliamentary election objectives. They support students’ wellbeing. Before the elections, we demanded that decision-makers increase the level of the study grant by one hundred euros. This is what we continue to demand now, with the government negotiations beginning, as sufficient subsistence promotes mental health. Mental health would also be supported by securing permanent additional funding for the universities’ guidance, support and wellbeing projects for students. This was another one of our election objectives.

There are 26,000 of us HYY’s members. There is power in numbers – we have the opportunity to make others pause and think about our mental health crisis, too. Nothing will change if no-one gets angry first. Nonetheless, everyone cannot always have the strength to participate in advocacy work. When this happens, you should remember that moderation is not a bad word.


Irja Vaateri
Member of the Board in charge of social policy