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1K Z1E j3 bench in Huygens building should inspire people to listen to each other about how things are really going

A 1K Z1E j3 bench has been in the Huygens building since Thursday. The bench symbolises making suicide, depression and despair negotiable. 'We hope this bench invites people to start the conversation about how they are really doing,' says student wellbeing officer Elly van Laar. 'But it all starts with seeing each other.'

Leiden University recently joined the national 1K Z1E J3 (I see you) campaign of the 113 Suicide Prevention Foundation. Every year, 500,000 people walk around with suicidal thoughts, including many young people between the ages of 20 and 30. The reason for this is different for everyone. For some, it is loneliness, financial stress or performance pressure. For another, it is childhood trauma, fear of the future or the climate crisis.

Human work hinges on mental health

Our faculty makes every effort to create a safe and pleasant environment for its staff and students. Nevertheless, it also happens here that there are staff or students who walk around with negative feelings. 'Everything we do at the university is human work that hinges on our mental health,' says Vice Dean Bart de Smit. 'We hope the bench is an occasion to reflect on two questions: am I actually doing well, and do I ever have suicidal thoughts? And do I see signs that someone close to me may not be doing well?'

Talking to each other about suicide

On the '1K Z1E j3 bench' there is a gold plaque with the text: a good conversation starts with really seeing someone. The QR code on it links to the free online suicide prevention training.

Van Laar hopes that the arrival of the bench will make students share highs and lows. Maybe even thoughts of suicide. 'That may seem scary, but we all can do it. For people walking around with such thoughts, it is a great relief if they can share them with someone who will listen.'

According to student assessor Nalani Verwoord, the topics of student welfare and suicide are definitely alive among students. 'More and more people are talking about it, but not yet by everyone. Conversations about how you are really doing are very important. That is why it is extra important that the faculty now facilitates the culture to make these topics discussable.'

Different ways to get help

Although a listening ear can help, sometimes it is not enough. Then it is nice if you can get help. 'Because thoughts of suicide are too heavy to bear alone,' says Van Laar. Students can get help in different ways. For instance, the family doctor can refer you to the mental health services. The study adviser or student psychologist can also help with that. You can also call or chat with counsellors at 113 Foundation, the suicide prevention line. You can even get therapy there. And if someone's life is in danger, you can call 112.

Do you need help?

Are you thinking about suicide or worried about someone? The counsellors of the 113 Foundation are there for you 24/7. You can chat with them anonymously at ww.113.nl or call 0800-0113.

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